He was a school teacher, with a love for wrestling. He entered politics and became the Chief Minister of UP. That is a brief introduction of Mulayam Singh Yadav. The forthcoming Assembly elections may mark the end of Mulayam's political career. He has reached an age where a leader has to pass his legacy on to his successor. Mulayam was remarkably prompt in this regard. Today, Akhilesh Yadav runs the Samajwadi Party.
Mulayam was a socialist. However, to call him a socialist today would be a travesty. Mulayam may not like me saying that, but still, truth must be told. Politics had killed the socialist in him long time ago. He joined the league of those extraordinary men in politics who say one thing and do another. Mulayam represented a possibility. But the compulsions of polity killed that possibility.
Mulayam was a Lohiaite. Lohia loved him too. But the love died soon. To remain 'relevant' in the nation's political scenario, Mulayam made all kinds of compromises. He borrowed the 'backwards politics' plank from Lohia, but connected it to 'Muslim communalism'. Ayodhya was undoubtedly a Sangh Pariwar-backed conspiracy and the nation has paid a huge price for it. But Mulayam, by turning into 'Maulana' Mulayam, lost no opportunity to cash in on the movement.
Remember how he had fortified the whole state of UP during the Ayodhya crisis, thereby giving the 'impression' that he is the only leader Muslims have. Did it work? No. His anti-RSS rant only strengthened the right-wing organisation.
The more Mulayam attacked them, the more they 'mobilised' the Hindu vote. BJP, which hardly had any presence in UP, went on to form a government in the state while Mulayam could never garner a decent mandate on his own again. He had to warm up to BSP and even BJP. He became so desperate that he even sought refuge in Kalyan Singh, the ousted BJP leader. The man who was behind the demolition of the Babari Masjid was suddenly being defended by 'Maulana' Mulayam.
Having learnt no lessons from history, Mulayam has now roped in Ahmad Bukhari of Delhi's Jama Masjid to reach out to the Muslims. It's the same Bukhari who doesn't want a section of Muslims to come out of the Madrasas and who wants the Muslims to stay away from modern education. Why? Because the first consequence of such initiatives would be the denial of the limited legitimacy that Bukhari enjoys among the Indian Muslims. The question is why couldn't Mulayam find a decent voice within the Muslim community? Mulayam's Muslim card in the name of secularism has done as much damage to UP as the Hindutva politics of the Sangh Pariwar.
Mulayam also has other feathers in his chequered cap. He is also behind the inclusion of tainted and chargesheeted politicians in his 'socialist' party. It was no coincidence that Mayawati's massive mandate in 2007 was also because of the dismal law and order condition of UP. It was a vote against the state turning into the 'gundaraj' of the SP. The people revolted and Mulayam lost the elections.
Not the one to learn his lessons again, Mulayam was again trying to induct the notorious D P Yadav back into the party. Thanks to his son Akhilesh, Yadav couldn't. Can Azam Khan induct DP into the SP without the Netaji's consent? No. But Akhilesh displayed courage. He even got rid of Mohan Singh after the former SP spokesperson opposed his decision to keep DP out. If only Akhilesh had shown the same courage vis-a-vis Ahmad Bukhari.
Some say Mulayam, by passing on the party baton to Akhilesh, has acknowledged the significance of the youths in the nation's polity. However, the truth is if Mulayam had again projected himself as the face of the party, his party would have been wiped out in the coming elections. Mulayam's rule until 2007 in UP was, in many ways, similar to Lalu's in Bihar. The people in UP, just like the voters in Bihar, don't want those days to return. Mayawati's corruption notwithstanding, the people in UP have enjoyed a much-improved law and order situation in the state. That explains why despite ruling for five years now, there is no 'wave' against the BSP this year.
And then, there was the absurd politics of opposing computers and English education. Voters are not naive enough to ignore the same man training his son Akhilesh in English schools and buying him the latest computer.
Akhilesh shows hope. He doesn't come across as dogmatic and shrewd as Mulayam. He looks young, educated, and trustworthy, not like the 'traditional politician' that UP is familiar with. Will this trust convert into votes? Will Akhilesh be able to come out of his father's shadows? His biggest challenges lie in 'deconstructing' his father's legacy and build a new Samajwadi Party. Can the school teacher's son do it?