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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 13, March 25, 2023

Samajwadi party chief Akhilesh lives in his own make believe world | Arun Srivastava

Saturday 25 March 2023


by Arun Srivastava

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav has the intrinsic right to maintain equidistance from BJP and Congress. But his decision must have some rationale. His decision to keep away from Congress, made public after his meeting with Mamata Benarjee in Calcutta, where he was last week to attend his party’s national executive meet, puts his political wisdom under the scanner. Does he think that like the BJP, Congress also practices divisive and communal politics and has been a major threat to the integrity and sovereignty of the country endangering the democratic institutions of the country?

His decision to maintain distance from Congress comes at a time when almost all the opposition parties have come together to fight the autocratic rule of Modi. No doubt India did witness autocratic rule under Indira Gandhi. But the present rule of Narendra Modi is worse than what the country observed in the seventies. The opposition parties have been busy evolving a common strategy to push the Modi government on the floor of the Parliament. Ironically Akhilesh has been keeping away from these protests. Incidentally, the Trinamool Congress of Mamata has been keeping away from the joint protest.

His stance simply strengthens the belief that Akhilesh does not find any fault with Modi and his government, notwithstanding his rhetoric that he is committed to fight BJP. This also makes one construe that in the eyes of Akhilesh, the Modi government has been a liberal and democratic dispensation. In a way it appears that he does not support the opposition on its stand on Adani.

While the members of all the 16 opposition parties waved placards and shouted slogans from the first-floor balcony of Parliament, a site which was never used a site to protest, Trinamul staged a separate protest, at Vijay Chowk, outside the Parliament premises, demanding Narendra Modi should get Adani arrested. The opposition members also hung a huge poster that read: “We want JPC.” The posters read: “Modi Adani bhai-bhai, desh lootke khai malai (Modi and Adani are brothers plundering the country).”

It is not clear what message the Trinamool leaders intended to send across the country. Do Mamata and her colleagues feel that the people are so naïve not to make out the implication of this separate protest? Nursing difference with other political party and its leadership is quite understandable and must be appreciated. But using personal likes and dislikes for maintaining a distance in the fight against the so-called common enemy is certainly not plausible. Statement of BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra; “He (Rahul) is the present-day Mir Zafar of Indian polity. He insulted the country and asked foreign powers to intervene in the country. He has to apologise. We will make him apologise” makes clear the intensity of Modi hatred against Rahul.

One can comprehend Mamata’s repulsion for Congress, particularly for Rahul Gandhi. He is a major stumbling block in her path to attain her status of a national leader. In spite of painstaking effort to present her Trinamool Congress as a national party and project herself as the claimant for the highest office of the country, she has not succeed in her mission. Though she claims to enjoy the support of other opposition leaders, the fact remains so far none has come out openly in her favour.

Almost all the opposition leaders, baring of course Akhilesh and Arvind Kejriwal, have thrown their weight behind Congress. Initially, the Telengana leader KCR was maintaining an antagonistic relation with Rahul, but after ED summoned his daughter and subsequently Congress extending its support to her, KCR has turned soft towards Congress and is not speaking against Rahul.

Both Mamata and Akhilesh are not ready to accept Congress as the leader of the opposition conglomerate. What has really been shocking indeed is the observation of Mamata that Modi was promoting Rahul as the leader of the opposition. She herself is a tall opposition leader and with deep penetration in Indian politics, she might have been correct information. But going by the recent political developments and the nature of the survival threat the BJP and Modi were facing it is a tough proposition to accept her observation. In fact her remark does not find acceptance in the opposition circle. The opposition leaders believe by saying this she intended to belittle the gains of Rahul’s Bharat Jodo Yatra.

Choosing their friends and allies Mamata and Akhilesh has again raised eyebrows in the opposition camp. Both are relying on Arvind Kejriwal and Navin Pattanaik to cobble up a third front. These two leaders are known for their not too cordial relation with Congress. Ever since Pattanaik came to occupy power more than two decades back, he has been maintaining distance from Congress. Interestingly on many occasions he openly stood by the BJP inside the parliament and even outside. Kejriwal is known for blowing hot and cold. His recent hardening of stance against Modi primarily owes to the latter cracking down on the AAP leader Manish Sisodia and implicating him in scam. There is no doubt that the path that Akhilesh and Mamata propose to tread will ultimately lead to the success of Modi in the 2024 Lok Sabha election and becoming the prime minister for the third consecutive term.

And in-between-the-lines analysis of what Akhilesh said after his meeting with Mamata points to his keeping options open. Though he reiterated that opposition alliance would take shape in the days to come, regional parties would play a key role in putting up a fight against the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, and SP will have an alliance with TMC, he did not outright reject the Congress. He said it was for Congress to decide its role in this proposed opposition front. He said, “I am confident that in the days to come, an opposition alliance will take shape, which will fight against the BJP".

Undeniably Akhilesh has bitter experiences in his effort to ally with Congress. It is alleged that some former Communist activists who joined the Congress a decade back did not allow the alliance to function smoothly. It was due to them that even some old Congress leaders left the party. Akhilesh’s perception may be absolutely correct. But these issues could be sorted out at the top level and must not create hindrances in fighting the powerful enemy. The compulsion of real politick must guide the political discourse and action. Akhilesh must not nurse any illusion that he alone could defeat the BJP. The outcome of 2022 UP assembly election has made it explicit that a strong coordination of opposition is needed at the booth level.

It is a fact that in many states the regional parties are fighting the saffron camp. In these states, Congress doesn’t exist in comparison to the BJP. Obviously, these regional parties must be allowed to take the lead role in these states. Congress has to play the second fiddle. It is quite natural that the opposition leaders must exercise restraint. Their irrational utterances will simply alienate the people from the opposition and its effort. One such statement from Akhilesh is his publically dropping the hint that SP will contest from Amethi. The reason cited does not appear to be plausible. He said “SP workers in Amethi were being killed. The Samajwadi Party workers are questioning who will fight for them. It is the Samajwadi workers there who are supporting each other; the Congress workers are not coming out in our support". He could have in fact taken this issue at his level and discussed the issue with Congress.

The SP and the Congress had joined hands in the 2017 assembly polls in UP but lost to the BJP. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls SP and BSP joined hands and kept out the Congress. Apparently, caste factor was in their favour, but they met with waterloo. It is a tendency to ignore the Congress and present itself as the only viable alternative to the BJP in the states, which was primarily responsible for the rout of the regional parties. More the opposition leaders must realise that the situation prevailing in 2019 was entirely different from what it is today.

Even associates of Akhilesh confide that he has not been taking a keen interest in reaching out to the voters and opposition leaders and trying to evolve one common platform at the state level. The Mahagathbandhan government of Bihar is an example before him. A coalition of the regional parties would be in a better position to talk to Congress on the issue of seat adjustment and broadening the alliance of the opposition parties.

It is fact that Congress leadership gets scared by such statements coming from the regional leaders. No regional leader can vouch to throw a challenge to BJP at all India level. The election to the three north state elections had reinforced the fact that TMC does not enough support base in these three states so as to it can form its own government. It has to ally with some local party. Same is the case in UP. TMC has no support base in that state. At best it would provide some amount of moral support. But that will not supplement to the ground level support of manpower and voters support. In contrast SP will be much help to Mamata in Bengal where a large number of people from UP are in jobs or in business having their political umbilical cord intact in UP. Busy

Almost all the organisations led by RSS are working out a strategy to defeat Rahul. So far the Congress officially has not claimed for the leadership of the opposition forum. Of course, some opposition leaders, like Nitish and Stalin, have projected him for the top job. But it certainly cannot be construed as the collective wish. Obviously, in this backdrop, there is no need for precipitating the crisis. What difference could TMC or SP make in Karnataka. Congress will have to fight alone. Instead of creating Right now, Congress is caught in the worst battle of protecting Rahul from the saffron onslaught. bad blood amongst the opposition rank, they should focus on how to defeat the BJP at 2024 polls.

An insight into the resolution adopted at the national meet, Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha of RSS will reveal that the BJP launching a high-decibel diatribe against Rahul Gandhi on the issue of his speech in Britain is part of the RSS strategy. Though Mamata feels that Modi is projecting Rahul as the opposition face, it does not appear to have a logical base. The fact is whether it is Narendra Modi or his ministerial colleagues or even the BJP leaders, hardening their stand against Rahul Gandhi and seeking his apology are being ordained at the behest of the RSS. The one-liner comment from home minister Amit Shah is the only dissenting narration. Home minister Amit Shah said to allow the parliament to function the government was ready to talk to the opposition to end the logjam. He even said; “the government was ready to go “two steps ahead” to resolve the standoff if the Opposition took “two steps forward”.

Apparently there is no clarity in the observation, but what is of importance is it has come in the midst of BJP members’ demand for the head of Rahul. What turns the accusing fingers towards the RSS is the observation of the RSS general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale, the next person in the hierarchy after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, incidentally coinciding with Shah offer, “Rahul Gandhi should speak more responsibly and see the reality of the Sangh’s acceptance in society”. Since RSS leaders claim their organisation to be a cultural organisation, what Rahul said in UK should not have bothered Hosabale. Rahul’s observation was political in nature and the BJP leaders had raised the issue in Parliament, using it as a political platform. The rationale of raising this issue by the BJP leaders and MPs inside the parliament is yet to be reviewed; whether it comes within the ambit of the parliamentary practices.

The RSS leadership is scared of Rahul’s campaign against BJP and RSS. RSS nurses the fear that any massive campaign against BJP will shatter its own image and the gains during 10 years of Modi rule. The ABPS underlined that some forces in the world are not accepting "Bharatiya" resurgence and are opposing “Hindutva thought” within and outside the country, devising “new conspiracies” for creating mutual distrust and anarchy in society, and there is a need to defeat their designs. BJP leaders are using Rahul’s anti-Modi government stance or decrying that democracy and democratic institutions are shattering in the country as a ploy to further the cause and interest of the RSS. Worth mentioning that the ABPS urged; “The ABPS wishes to underscore the fact that while many countries accepting this Bharatiya resurgence based on its ’Swa’ or selfhood,” they have respect and goodwill for Bharat, some forces in the world are not”.

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