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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 13, March 20, 2010

Samajwadi Party at Crossroads

Saturday 20 March 2010, by Varughese George


Finally Amar Singh is out. He has been expelled from the Samajwadi Party on February 2 along with the Member of Parliament, Jayaprada. Yet the parting of ways by Mulayam Singh and Amar Singh is not merely personal, but has organisational and ideological dimensions too. The Samajwadi Party has been losing the elections since 2007 when it had to bow out of power in UP giving way to the BSP. In the 15th Lok Sabha elections in 2009 the party had to be satisfied with half the seats compared to what it had in the previous Lok Sabha. In the Legislative Council elections in January 2010 the party could win only one seat out of 33 seats to which elections were held. The social base of the party has also been dwindling as all ten Muslim candidates who contested on the party ticket lost in the Lok Sabha elections.

For the erosion of its electoral and social base the party had to identify a scapegoat and it found that in Amar Singh. In fact he was largely responsible for the paradigm shift in the nature of the party. A party of rural peasantry was being transformed into a party of corporates and cine stars. Though the old socialists faithfully remained as the core of the party, they felt being marginalised in the decision-making process as happened in the alliance with Kalyan Singh. Amar Singh seems to have crafted this alliance that made the Muslims hostile to the Samajwadi Party.

The entry of corporate captains and Bolly-wood stars as parliamentarians on behalf of the Samajwadi Party caused revulsion in the party, but that was not evident in public. The party’s taking sides in the Reliance brothers’ dispute with the Oil Ministry was not to its core spirit, though the cadres silently endured it with discipline and dignity. Mulayam Singh was also unnecessarily dragged into this controversy thus making his stature shrink to that of a local politician.

Amar Singh’s parting words giving a hint of differences over the issues of computer, the English language, and private corporate salary structure point to the fact that he was not convinced of his party’s stand on these issues. In the manifesto of the party, released as a prelude to the Lok Sabha elections, the Samajwadi Party had expressed its opposition to the use of computers in sectors where it displaces labour. The party also argued for education in the Hindi medium in schools and opposed English as the compulsory medium of instruction. The manifesto had called for parity of salary of corporate chiefs with those in the public sector.

Mulayam Singh also cannot be absolved of the shift in the party’s ideological orientation. He was a mute witness to the transition of the Samajwadi Party to a party of Bombay socialites. As Krishnanand wrote, the public sector Bhalla Cements was sold to Dalmia when Mulayam Singh was the Chief Minister of UP. The support given to the beleaguered first UPA Ministry at the time of the confidence vote was not based on political considerations but on expediency.

‘Chhota Lohia’ Janeswar Misra is no more. Mulayam’s mentor George Fernandes is sick. The Lohia birth centenary is approaching. Will Mulayam prove his mettle by uniting the socialists?

Dr Varughese George is a Reader in History at Mar Thoma College, Tiruvalla, Kerala. His email is:

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