A scapegoat called Shivpal Yadav

In this age of finessed fakery, could a family feud be feigned? The question becomes pertinent in the context of the war within the Mulayam Singh Yadav family. For one of the conspiracy theories doing the rounds in Delhi and Lucknow is that the fratricide is actually a fixed match, a la WWE wrestling bout. Or a well-scripted drama with UP politics as a stage, with all the men and women merely players, with their exits and their entrances.

There are various other speculations: Mulayam is being ‘managed’ by Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah by using the carrot of being made the President/Vice-President of India or the stick of reopening the cases related to disproportionate assets. For usually there are as many conspiracy theories as there are political reporters. Whatever may be the truth behind the (real or fake) family feud, the upshot is real and indubitable: Uncle Shivpal Yadav has become the scapegoat.

Scapegoat, or the “goat for Azazel”, is mentioned in the Old Testament ritual of Yom Kippur. It is a goat symbolically burdened with the sins of the Jewish people, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. “Some scholars believe that the animal was chosen by lot to placate Azazel, a wilderness demon, then thrown over a precipice outside Jerusalem to rid the nation of its iniquities. By extension, a scapegoat has come to mean any group or individual that innocently bears the blame of others.”

Scapegoats, however, have “a long and varied history involving many kinds of animals, as well as human beings. In ancient Greece, human scapegoats (pharmakos) were used to mitigate a plague or other calamity or even to prevent such ills. The Athenians chose a man and woman for the festival of Thargelia. After being feasted, the couple was led around the town, beaten with green twigs, driven out of the city, and possibly even stoned. In this way the city was supposedly protected from ill fortune for another year,” says Britannica.

The narrative that has got conjured up is that Mulayam’s son, UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, is a well-meaning, young, enthusiastic leader, devoted to good governance and all-around development, but restrained and constrained by the old guard. While Mulayam leads the pack of rotten politicians—with the baggage of casteism, regression, and hooliganism—he can and should be tolerated; after all, he is the patriarch. But the folks like Shivpal, and especially Shivpal, are simply intolerable; there is no rhyme or reason for to go along with them; they represent all that is unlovely in Indian politics.

A commentator wrote in Huffington Post, December 31 (http://www.huffingtonpost.in/2016/12/30/heres-what-went-wrong-between-mulayam-and-akhilesh-yadav/), “Mulayam Singh Yadav wants to give tickets to dons with criminal records, Akhilesh wants to change the party’s goonda image. Mulayam Singh Yadav makes egregious comments on rape, Akhilesh Yadav starts women’s helplines that actually work. Mulayam Singh Yadav represents the identity politics of Mandal, Akhilesh Yadav casts his image more as Akhilesh and less as Yadav. Mulayam Singh Yadav is known as a ‘mullah’ for his Muslim identity politics, Akhilesh Yadav wants to cast a secular technocrat image for himself.”

Evidently, some people have swallowed the make-believe delectables peddled by the Akhilesh camp hook, line, and sinker. For UP’s reality is not so delectable. UP’s overall crime rate is 1,293 per lakh of population in 2015, against the national figure of 582, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

On the economic front, too, the ‘young and dynamic’ leader has not done wonders. During the first three years of Mayawati’s rule (2007-12), the state registered a growth rate of around 7 per cent, while under Akhilesh grew only at 5.6 per cent in the first three years. The silver lining, however, is that growth under him is on an upward swing, from 3.9 per cent in the first year to 4.7 per cent and then further to 6.2 per cent.

But image management can be efficient to the extent of being magical these days; if done properly—that is, without bothering about many scruples—it can eclipse the reality for some time. And that is what politicians want.

The Akhilesh camp has got exactly what it wanted: owing to the (real or fake) fratricidal war and suitable PR exercise, it is widely believed that Akhilesh, the champion of governance and development, has succeeded in ejecting corrupt, decadent politicians from the Samajwadi Party; the party has been cleansed of muck. Along with, if not in the person of, Uncle Shivpal Yadav. Scapegoat Shivpal Yadav.


P.S.: Shivpal Yadav can take some comfort from the fact that Jesus Christ is also considered a scapegoat. Britannica says, “Christianity reflects this notion in its doctrine of justification and in its belief that Jesus Christ was the God-man who died to atone for the sins of all mankind.”