SEEMA MUSTAFA | 8 APRIL, 2018
NEW DELHI: They have a lot in common. They are both sons of men who had dominated politics in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar respectively. They are thus, dynasty. They are both Yadavs. They both believe in extending that base to cover others. They are both forthright, speak straight, and show no fear. They have taken a little time but unlike say Rahul Gandhi in Delhi, they have controlled their respective parties with minimal fuss.
The one difference is that Akhilesh Yadav while keeping a hug and embrace ready for his father Mulayam Singh Yadav at all times, had to fight the former Chief Minister’s coterie to get his space in the sun. More so as Mulayam Singh, the founder of the Samajwadi party, joined and supported his son’s critics and insisted that the protegee accept his cabal as his own. Akhilesh Yadav refused, and broke free in the last Assembly elections in the state to distance himself from his father's cabal, actually criticised Amar Singh, and within weeks had the party eating out of his hand.
He teamed up with the Congress party, giving full respect to Rahul Gandhi and the Congress leaders once he had made up his mind to do so. The two campaigned together in the state, with Akhilesh Yadav honouring the agreement even though it became very clear early on in the day that the Congress was bringing little to the election table. Not even an organisation, that remained in disarray and was unable to add to the SP strength in UP in any significant manner. Or as it turned out, weakness with the BJP sweeping the elections.
Tejashwi Yadav appears to be of somewhat a similar bent of mind. Respectful of elders, a characteristic visible in both their public appearances. And when Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav entered into a pre-poll alliance Tejashwi Yadav was widely credited in the state for cementing it. He, sources told The Citizen time, often prevailed upon his more aggressive father not to allow the pact to unravel, and later when he became the Deputy Chief Minister in government he worked hard to build a good working relationship with CM Nitish Kumar. In fact Janata Dal(U) leaders openly praised him for his cooperation. Insisting at the time that it was easier to deal with the son than the father.
The same was the view of the Samajwadi party, further worried by the health of its founder president Mulayam Singh. And the influence of a cabal largely seen as corrupt and authoritarian. Akhilesh Yadav broke its hold, and in the process challenged his father who roundly criticised him. However, the son refused to join swords and spoke instead of his deep respect for his father, insisting that his writ still prevailed. That won him the support of the party cadres, and despite the big defeat in the polls, Akhilesh Yadav has not lost the party.
Instead he has converted the loss into an opportunity and responding to the pressure from below, reached out to the more arrogant Bahujan Samaj party leader Mayawati. Leaders in between prepared the ground but ultimately it all hinged on Akhilesh Yadav’s ability to woo the suspicious and somewhat of a loner leader. He clearly succeeded with the bye elections in Gorakhpur and Phulpur being the first public demonstration of this alliance. Mayawati, showing rare maturity, sat out the election allowing the SP to field candidates from basically it's stronghold. She directed her cadres to work for the SP official candidates, and this became an open fact towards the end of the campaign when the alliance between the two made itself felt on the ground. SP won both the seats, Gorakhpur being the home constituency of UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
Interestingly, Akhilesh Yadav has managed to keep all lines of communication open with Mayawati, realising the importance of direct contact. After the elections, efforts were made through rumours to break the alliance with the BJP playing on the suspicious nature of the BSP leader. That this did not work was clear when she countered the rumours, and spoke of the BJPs efforts to break her alliance with the SP. The credit for this rapport is being given in UP circles to Akhilesh Yadav, and his affable, smiling personality that has clearly cut through Mayawati’s isolation.
Tejashwi Yadav too was able to walk the thin line between his father and Nitish Kumar for the brief while the two were in government. He was known to patch up almost daily differences and persuade the ally and the Chief Minister of his party’s good intent. But now that Nitish Kumar is with the BJP, the die has been cast. Tejashwi Yadav has quietly taken over the reins of the party after Lalu Yadav was jailed in the fodder scam, and in the same tradition launched a ceaseless diatribe against both Nitish Kumar and the BJP. He has been attacking both for their communal politics, the lack of development with direct taunts at Nitish Kumar for his silence.
Both the Yadav scions are very active on the social media, with a big following. The tweets are piercing, hit hard, at the BJP and in the Bihar case, Janata Dal (U). The Congress and other regional parties are out of their sights, with the volleys reserved for the BJP and the RSS. Significantly, both Akhilesh and Tejashwi Yadav do not hesitate to speak out of the minorities unlike the Congress that remains hesitant. The attacks on Dalits led both to issue warnings about the BJPs real intent and divisive politics.
Their twitter handles reflect a wide range of interests, activities and of course political barbs directed with their respective state governments and chief ministers getting the brunt. Akhilesh Yadav is a more accomplished campaigner having led the party in the general elections, but more decisively in the Assembly polls. Tejaswi Yadav has campaigned too in the last polls in Bihar, but under the leadership of his father, the more charismatic and incorrigible Lalu Prasad who still holds his own unlike Mulayam Singh whose health has made him a virtual non-player in the state.
The duo are to watch out for in 2019. Not because either is playing at this stage for the national stakes---in fact Akhilesh Yadav has happily conceded this to Mayawati--- but because both will determine the UP and Bihar vote in the Lok Sabha polls by determining the complexion of the opposition alliance. And unlike their fathers, their doors are wide open.