by April 1, 2012 0 comments

Though it is early to predict the national impact of emergence of Akhilesh Yadav but surely with his influence over 80 odd parliamentary seats courtesy UP 2012 massive victory of Uttar Pradesh has turned the equation upside down in Delhi. Uttar Pradesh is India’s most populous and politically key state where Gandhi had hoped to stage a revival for Congress as it prepares to contest national elections in 2014 but Akhilesh has uprooted that plan at least for the time being .

The young leader, Akhilesh Yadav, is only 38. For the minefield of Indian politics, any age below 40 could be termed a gawky position to start an electoral race. This is the heart of India, where six prime ministers have sharpened their political grammar skills and polished their realpolitik positions.

In the spring of 2012, Akhilesh nimble foots the bicycle pedal of Indian socialism. The young warhorse talks softly and walks briskly. Any punctuation in conversation is dotted with solemn, quick witted humor and a big smile. One only has to see him in the midst of a mammoth public rally to appreciate how his strong personal charm lifts the spirit of the crowds.

Modern in his approach, when he rides his cycle, he shuffles his Blackberry between his right and left hands like a trapeze artist, shooting messages to socialist cadre through Facebook statuses and tweets. His statuses on Facebook are mission statements. Facebook and Twitter are his gravy train. Akhilesh considers the Internet as a strong force of democracy. The tech-socialist is an adventurer in his own rights. Undoubtedly, he is the politician who takes risk.

So, what violent gust of wind has propelled a shy, simple and smooth talking young socialist politician into the center of national and international attention? Six months ago when he was bracing for the big battle on a snazzy red motor chariot of revolution (Kraanti Rath), Indian media was guarded in its judgment. Far from being a toast of cocktail discourses in neon lit salons of New Delhi and Bombay, he was dismissed by a heavy list of opinion makers and mediaratti as ‘son of his father’s socialist palace which was pockmarked with unsophistication and complex legacy’. Post Farrukhabad debacle, the challenges before the young socialist were herculean. He was hoisted in the office of state presidency by his father and told in no uncertain terms to reverse the setback. Debacle, actually, was a blessing in disguise for Akhilesh.

Akhilesh is not a demonstrative politician. He is a well read politician. For the past few years he has been reading about Bolshevism, Fabianism, Leninism, Maoism, Marxism, collective ownership, collectivism, communism, state ownership and a host of socialist stalwarts. Albert Einstein intrigues him as much as Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx. In his view, Einstein was one of the towering socialists. Behind the red curtain, he was learning about the levers of social security, social Darwinism, social hierarchy, social psychology, social distortion and social health wellness while he was comparing communism, capitalism and social- ism. However, Akhilesh believes in command system where both socialism and communism mingles to set the stage where government owns all property rights and also makes all the decisions. In a way, he wants the government to own all of the business firms and produce what the government deemed necessary, especially where peasantry welfare is concerned. And, India is an agricultural country and the socialists draw maximum support from the farm- lands. There are skeptics who argue equal opportunity society is not conceivable under socialistic umbrella because there are not enough tax revenue to pay for the large number of social programmes, especially pro- young men and women policies.

When Akhilesh began his most coveted political journey six months ago, his socialist party, Samajwadi Party, was an antiquated and archaic organization. He was determined not to let the party stay in the closet. With the onset of the spring, he has achieved a turn around even his bitterest baiters didn’t conceive. The environmental engineer has astutely revived the socialist campaign in India’s most populous province, which is reputed for paving the way for coronation in New Delhi.

The man has engineered the u turn in the fortune of the Socialist party. He is the original heir apparent of the Socialist bandwagon and radiates the promise and potential to rule not only a province but the country in future. Akhilesh is the daredevil socialist.

Samajwadi ended up with 224 out of the state’s 403 seats, enabling it to form the state government without any need for a coalition. Despite an energetic campaign that saw him sleep in the huts of villagers and join farmers’ protests, Gandhi and the Congress party got just 28 seats. The results show that Rahul and the Congress were hardly a Challenge for the SP. Akhilesh’s fight was always with the BSP and Dalit ki beti Mayawati. And the man of the “Akhilesh Yadav queered Rahul Gandhi’s pitch, by projecting a youthful modernist face, but with the added advantages of being seemingly rooted in local social circumstance,” wrote analyst Pratap Bhanu Mehta in the Indian Express. “He talked the language of aspiration.” He also managed to change his party’s image of being peopled by strongmen and thugs. In one landmark decision, Yadav insisted that an alleged criminal be refused a party ticket to contest the election, reportedly against the wishes of some party stalwarts. The young man’s view prevailed.

“People don’t want old style politics and this is something that Akhilesh understands, which his father Mulayam Singh didn’t,” said political analyst Amulya Ganguli. Akhilesh is more in sync with the new evolving world of an open economy and that is his appeal.” At a press conference on election day in Lucknow, Yadav said law and order was the party’s top priority. Akhilesh Yadav said that the SP was committed to implement its promises to the Muslim community and the party would press for implementation of Sachar and Rangnath Mishra Commission reports, besides promoting Urdu language. He said that the statues of Mayawati and elephants at various memorials built during the BSP regime would not be touched.

“Akhilesh has definitely become a phenomenon,” said political analyst Kuldip Nayar. “The perception of the party as being a party of goons has definitely changed.”

Football and Laptops

A former wrestler, Mulayam Singh Yadav first became chief minister of Uttar Pradesh in 1989, relying on the votes of farmers from his Yadav caste and Muslims. His party has a colorful history. “Bandit Queen” Phoolan Devi, an outlaw who rampaged through Uttar Pradesh in the 1980s, joined the Samajwadi Party and was elected to parliament before she was gunned down.

But to many, the Samajwadi Party had become a tired brand that jarred with India’s rise as a tech-savvy,English speaking, emerging economic giant. It used to campaign against computers on the grounds that they destroyed jobs, and against teaching English in schools. Akhilesh Yadav appears to have changed that. Although born in Uttar Pradesh, Yadav finished his education in Sydney, Australia, and speaks fluent English, although he is still careful to answer media questions in Hindi. In cricket-mad India, he loves football and supports the English club Manchester United.

In the run-up to the 2012 campaign, he admitted to mistakes the party had made in the past and commissioned a series of surveys on how the party was viewed in the state. “Akhilesh Yadav was the poster boy for the Samajwadi Party in this campaign and he was the face that helped people to put behind them the unpleasant memories they had of the previous SP rule,” said Siddharth Varadarajan, editor of the Hindu newspaper. Instead of attacking technology, he promised free laptops to students. The party now has its own Facebook page. Based on this result he does seem the more politically astute of the two. But Yadav does not necessarily see it that way. After the results, he said of Gandhi: “Politics is like that. We lost last time but won this time. We may lose again. Similarly Rahul lost this time but may win tomorrow.”

The UP elections has thrown up the first genuine rival who possesses the talent and independent base – in a state like UP, no less – to mount a national challenge in the long run. So will Rahul remain the Congress heir apparent despite the UP debacle? Yes. Will he be saved from the facing the extent of his electoral humiliation by a Samajwadi Party alliance? Most likely. But all the spin in the world will not save Rahul from the one great catastrophe birthed by the UP elections: the rise of Akhilesh Yadav. Irrespective of what happens in the aftermath of the results,  Akhilesh is a nightmare that will not go away not unless his party fails to deliver once in power. The more successful he is in UP, the more he will be favourably compared to Rahul. The UP elections may be over, but the battle of the scions goes on.

 – By Prakar Prakash Mishra with In puts from Reuters, & Frank Huzur is biographer of Imran Khan






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