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Modi winner all the way

Thursday, March 16, 2017
By Arati R. Jerath

Mayawati is clear loser even as Akhilesh retains major goodwill in UP

Narendra Modi is the winner all the way after the BJP’s stunning victory in Uttar Pradesh. And with just 19 seats, Mayawati is the clear loser. She will have to go back to the drawing board if at all the BSP has to survive as a political party.

But what about Akhilesh Yadav? He is young, still in his forties, and retains a lot of popular goodwill. Travelling around UP, one didn’t sense any negative feeling for him. In fact, there was more anger with his party for the goonish ways of its members and voter neglect by its MLAs than against Akhilesh’s performance as chief minister.

Yet, questions arise about his political future. Father Mulayam Singh’s loyalists like Madhukar Jetley have started criticizing Akhilesh quite openly to demand the return of the patriarch as SP president. Although Mulayam refrained from rubbishing his son in his first statement to the media, his disapproval of Akhilesh’s campaign, choice of candidates and tie-up with the Congress was evident.

Akhilesh is caught between a rock and a hard place now. The tally of 47 seats is the SP’s worst performance ever. It lost every seat but two on its home turf in the Yadav belt. However, the tally will entitle the party to the position of leader of opposition in the state assembly. The irony is that Akhilesh is not a member of the state assembly and therefore, cannot be LoP. He is a member of the upper house.

The position of LoP will in all probability go to uncle Shivpal Yadav who can then establish his dominance over the MLAs. There are reports that Akhilesh is trying to promote Azam Khan’s name as LoP but Shivpal will fight tooth and nail to grab the position for himself.

In addition, pressure is mounting on Akhilesh to step aside as SP president and restore the leadership of the party to his father. After such a disastrous performance, he may have no option but to give in.

Where does all this leave Akhilesh? The old guard will be back in command and Akhilesh will have to depend on his father’s goodwill to carve out a political future for himself. In the meantime, the buzz in Lucknow is that the former chief minister is off to London next month for a holiday. Does that sound like another young scion of a political family?

Transition from Jaya to Sasi complete
The transition from Jayalalithaa to Sasikala is complete. AIADMK MPs in Parliament were spotted carrying Sasikala’s picture in the breast pocket of their shirt when the second half of the budget session began.

AIADMK MPs always wore their loyalty on their heart. When Jaya was alive, they used to carry a large picture of her in their shirt pocket. Since the shirts they wear are made of fine khadi, the material is quite transparent and Jaya’s photo was very visible.

Now they are carrying a card which displays two or three pictures. Jayalalithaa’s face still dominates of course but some have added Sasi’s photo in a smaller size while others have also added the new party general secretary Dinakaran’s photo to the mix. With Sasiin jail, Dinakaran is the rising power house. MPs who are more cautious don’t want to take chances which is why they have put his picture on the card. His picture is the smallest, however.

MPs who belong to the rebel camp led by former chief minister O Paneerselvam are still sporting the old card which has only Jayalalithaa’s picture on it.

When BJP was on Congress side
Guess who was praying for a Congress victory in Punjab? The Congress, of course. But so was the BJP which was desperate to halt Arvind Kejriwal’s march to national status.

BJP leaders including prominent ministers were openly saying before the results that they hope the Congress wins in Punjab. In fact, one BJP source acknowledged that the party had tried to transfer as much of its vote share as possible to the Congress. This vote consists largely of traders, businessmen and the urban middleclasses.

Clearly, the BJP feared the emergence of Kejriwal as a national force if he managed to form a government in Punjab. With a full state under him, unlike a half state that Delhi is, he would have enlarged his national footprint. And his next stop was going to be Modi’s home state of Gujarat, where assembly elections are due at the end of the year.

AAP teams have been visiting Gujarat frequently for several months. Kejriwal himself has made many visits and each time, he’s been received by large crowds. Even more worrying for the BJP was that Kejriwal was in touch with young Patidar agitation leader Hardik Patel. That could have been a formidable alliance.

Mamata remains cautious
It is interesting that even as she is working behind-the-scenes to craft an anti-BJP front for the 2019 polls, Mamata Banerjee decided to be cautious till the UP results were out. The West Bengal chief minister had ordered her MPs to stage a dharna in front of the Gandhi statue in Parliament to protest against the BJP government’s decision to deny midday meals to schoolkids without Aadhar chards. The dharna was scheduled to take place on the opening day of the reconvened budget session, which was two days before the results of the five state polls.

Suddenly, on the morning of the dharna, the MPs were told that there was a change of plan. They should go ahead with the dharna, they were told, but the protest should be about the hate crimes against Indians in Trump’s US.

The MPs were taken aback but orders are orders. So at the last minute, they had to change their slogans and sound bytes for TV cameras. Clearly, Mamata decided to play safe till the results were out. Wisely so, given the sweep of the BJP’s victory.

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