Is the Mahabharata in Uttar Pradesh’s ruling family for the real? Are they really fighting each other, or is it like a WWE bout? A theory doing the rounds in Lutyen’s Delhi is that the supposedly fratricidal war in UP is just a charade. Only the dramatis personae know what is the truty. Perhaps it is a charade, maybe it’s real, but there’s another possibility: it started as a sham fight but mutated into a real one.
It is a well-known fact that Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav wants to be seen as a new-age leader whose focus is on development and modernization rather than on the caste-community calculus. He has been cultivating such an image for quite some time. In the run-up to the 2012 Assembly polls, western UP’s gangster-turned-politician, D.P. Yadav, had joined the Samajwadi Party. Akhilesh vehemently and publicly opposed it, thus presenting himself as a principled leader of a party which is often accused of proximity of criminals. The move yielded rich dividends, with his party getting an absolute majority in the country’s largest state.
As Chief Minister, however, Akhilesh has not been able to live up the promises he had made while campaigning for the top office in the state. The law-and-order situation deteriorated; there were reports of activists linked with the ruling party getting involved in questionable activities.
The economy too didn’t do well. While growth was 7 per cent in previous, Mayawati-led rule, it was 5.6 per cent in the first three years in Akhilesh’s regime. Agriculture, which provides livelihood the largest section of population, declined from 5.2 per cent in 2012-13 to 0.5 per cent in 2013-14 and then declined 2.5 per cent in the next fiscal.
It is not that Akhilesh hasn’t made any attempt to make things better. He has laid a great of emphasis on infrastructure. Major projects like the Lucknow-Agra Expressway, the Lucknow Metro, the Chak Ganjaria City (CG City) in Lucknow, and a four-lane road linking 44 district headquarters are scheduled to be operational by the end of 2016.
But, evidently, this is not enough. Besides, there are a number of encumbrances, the most prominent being the politics of the state. There are Shivpal Yadav and other members of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s extended family. And Amar Singh. And Azam Khan.
According to those who believe that the infighting in the SP is fake, the entire episode is intended to convince people that Akhilesh is a well-meaning guy who is just being dragged down by his sundry, ossified uncles and the old guard. The latter may be a nuisance to governance and development, but they have their utility. Netaji, however, would set everything right, as he apparently did recently, engineering a kind of truce between Akhilesh and Shivpal. This is the narrative that UP’s first family want to sell to the voters in the forthcoming elections.
Perhaps this theory is correct, but there is another possibility: the charade became real. It reminds me of an episode at the local Ramlila I saw decades ago. In a battle scene between the armies of Ram and Ravana, one of the soldiers hurt his enemy on stage, which elicited a similar attack from the one he was hit. The upshot was that both of them really started hitting each other.
So, there is a possibility that the SP charade became real.