The family battle between Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and the founder of Samajwadi Party and incumbent president, Mulayam Singh Yadav, is not just a father-son fight. It’s a political drama that will affect the country’s largest state, and also the entire country. Deep in the heart of UP, we feel a wave, a tremor, and think, can a young member of the state’s grand old party be responsible for a churn?
Akhilesh Yadav, born on July 1st, 1973, in Saifai, a village in Etawah district in Uttar Pradesh, is India’s youngest Chief Minister – a position he took on at the age of 38 on March 15th, 2012.
Since he became Chief Minister, Akhilesh has changed the face of UP politics, primarily through his emphasis on participation by the youth and on technology and infrastructure. People believe that his initiatives – the building of ‘expressways’ and metro lines and distribution of laptops – has taken UP, one amongst the notorious ‘BIMARU’ states, to a new level of development. Hailing from a region and a long, illustrious political legacy of using caste and religion in electoral strategy, Akhilesh ostensibly distanced himself from such politics and has instead focussed more on modernisation and growth – cosmetic changes which would change the perspective on his home state.
But taking the moral highground is a complicated thing when your family’s political legacy is replete with ‘rebels’ (we call them dakus in Bundelkhand) and criminals. A relative of dacoit Dadua of Chitrakoot is a leader of the party and was once also a MLA. The famous dacoit from Chambal, Phoolan Devi, was also a member of the SP. Mulayam Singh lauded and rewarded these popular and influential figures, but Akhilesh tried to obfuscate his their importance in the scheme of things. In a way, then, the clashes within the SP and the Yadav family are also a fight to change the older ways of governance.
If you flip the modernisation coin, you see the picture of the village road that isn’t, and hear the story of the patient who succumbed to her illness because there was no village health care at hand. You also see a booming black market in equipment marked with Akhilesh’s distinguished profile, where electricity doesn’t work the water pump, leave alone charge your laptop. The widely publicized 1090 Women’s Helpline is the hardest phone number to get through to in the country. Akhilesh’s supporters say that work has been done to plan such policies, but that their implementation will take time. Isn’t time now? It is for Akhilesh’s youthful supporters.
As the BJP colours the most underdeveloped districts in UP with their saffron promises of change, Akhilesh takes them on, headfirst. On the one hand, people are familiar with Akhilesh’s work in the state, while the BJP is unknown, an outsider party. The note ban has also had a profound impact on people in rural areas in UP. The lives and livelihoods of farmers, labourers, shopkeepers, contractors has come to a standstill. So will the BJP’s long and loud fanfare yield the desired prize? The much-watched, but silent BSP is not been clear on their strategy, nor have they done much publicity, so, will these votes too go to Akhilesh?
Hardly a month is left before the first phase of the UP elections. In the past one month one thing has been very clear: whether Akhilesh rides the cycle, or fashions a more modern conveyance, he has certainly gained huge popular support. What does this mean for the election that could change all of our lives? Watch this space.
Featured image: Photo by Arvind Yadav/ Hindustan Times via Getty Images.