SEEMA MUSTAFA | 31 MAY, 2018
The 3 musketeers and more
NEW DELHI: It has finally happened, and without much ado. A change of guard has taken place in these byelections with the first responses to the opposition victory coming from the new leaders in the fray. Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi party the architect of opposition unity in Uttar Pradesh, Tejaswi Yadav who has taken up the mantle of his jailed father Lalu Yadav to confront Nitish Kumar and the BJP in Bihar, Jayant Chaudhary who campaigned hard and through the victory in Kairana has brought the beleaguered Rashtriya Lok Dal out of the woods.
A lot will be seen of these three young men, inheritors of political legacy no doubt, along with Congress president Rahul Gandhi in the run up to the 2019 elections. There is a new verve, a new style of campaigning, a direct no-holds-barred approach, confrontationist and aggressive that seems to be the bond that unites them. As does of course the fact that they are all fighting the BJP and seeking control of India’s largest states Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
The two Yadavs and the one Chaudhary are all sons of men who dominated politics in these two states. All have taken a little time to emerge, Akhilesh Yadav having had to counter his father the indomitable Mulayam Singh and the old guard in his party but they seem to be firmly in the saddle now. Jayant Chaudhary caught in his father Ajit Singh’s vacillating politics took more time than others but as an opposition leader said with a smile, ‘der se aye par durast aye.’ And he wrested the big Kairana Lok Sabha seat from the BJP stating very clearly that 2019 would now see an united opposition against the BJP.
The quietest of the three is Akhilesh Yadav but the one working hard behind the scenes to forge alliances that will bring the Samajwadi party back to power. In the last Assembly elections he worked with the Congress party in an alliance that had both him and Rahul Gandhi traversing the state in a joint campaign that did not pay dividends. This was largely because of the Congress party’s weak organisation and inability to work at the district and booth levels.
Realising that this was not going to work, Akhilesh Yadav lost little time after the polls to reach out to Mayawati and bring her into an alliance that saw the opposition winning the Gorakhpur and Phulpur bypolls just recently. Akhilesh Yadav has a veneer of humility that keeps the elders in politics off guard, but as those who know him polnt out, he knows what he wants and works towards it. He has been able to assure Mayawati that he would not come in the path between her and New Delhi, being quite contest to remain in Lucknow with time on his side.
Tejaswi Yadav, unlike his UP colleague, has had the full support of his father Lalu Yadav. His stint in government worked well, in that he was largely credited with keeping Nitish Kumar in good humour despite his father’s more confrontationist approach. However after Kumar joined the BJP, and jailed Lalu Yadav, Tejaswi has taken up the mantle of running the RJD well. He is popular with the workers and as the partys’s victory in the Jokihat bypoll shows, he is able to lead the party to victory as well. Nitish Kumar had made this a prestige seat but lost to the surging popularity of the RJD, fresh under a new leader with no baggage.
Jayant Chaudhary who flirted with the BJP along with his father Ajit Singh has obviously decided to come back to the fold. Articulate and political like the other two, he campaigned hard for Tabassum Begum and established a decisive victory. He focused on the traditional Jat vote of the party, speaking out against the politics of hate, and insisting on the politics of development. A better speaker than his father who was virtually dragged to succeed Charan Singh, Chaudhary seems to be a more natural politician and able to strike a rapport with the young Jats.
Interestingly, all three are fairly similar in appearance preferring the white khadi kurta pajama that is also Rahul Gandhi’s dress code. They speak direct, are forthright and clearly without fear targeting the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for pursuing a politics of hate. Without being specific, they are able to project an approach of inclusiveness speaking of all communities in the same breath.
They have also been able to distance themselves from the baggage of their fathers, more so the two Yadavs who are able to establish a rapport with elders that has worked towards strengthing opposition alliances in the two states. Tejaswi Yadav has kept the bonhomie with the Congress, while Akhilesh Yadav has been able to turn an otherwise lonesome and suspicious leader Mayawati towards larger unity. This in itself is no mean feat, and till a few months ago seen as ‘impossible’ by their supporters.
All three are active on the social media, have an extensive following and between them do not let a Modi or Amit Shah aside pass without being effectively challenged. Their interventions are on the side of communal harmony, and as the Kairana election showed, they have little hesitation in endorsing and fielding a Muslim candidate despite the current politics of polarisation. In fact in all three constituencies in UP and Bihar where by polls were held---Kairana, Noorpur, and Jokihat---the candidates fielded by RLD, SP, and RJD respectively were Muslims.
The three are to watch out for in 2019 as they represent the two states that together hold 120 Lok Sabha seats. Their relations with Rahul Gandhi are cordial, they are open to alliances, they do not carry bags of arrogance or political misunderstandings, and all together can be expected to present a new face of India in the forthcoming parliamentary polls.