The Samajwadi Party (SP) is acknowledged as the strongest political force in Mainpuri and Etawah, its bastions in central Uttar Pradesh, but it is not difficult these days to find people wavering in their loyalty to the party. Blame this crisis of faith on the ruling Yadav family feud.
Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav is in charge of the party now, but the ripples of the feud are evident in the region that votes on February 19.
On January 17, a signboard stating ‘Mulayam ke log’ (Mulayam’s people) was placed outside a dimly lit room in a lane near Idgah in Etawah. It was preceded by the resignation of Sunil Yadav, the SP district president of Etawah, and around 500 members.
The SP is not repeating the sitting MLA from Etawah and has given ticket to Kuldeep Gupta alias Santu, who is considered close to Mulayam Singh Yadav’s cousin Ram Gopal Yadav.
In the Yadav family feud, Ram Gopal Yadav was seen on the CM’s side, while Mulayam Singh Yadav and his brother Shivpal Yadav were the opposing faction. “We are against Santu’s candidature. We cannot continue working in a party that does not respect Netaji,” says Sunil.
Around a kilometre from Sunil’s office, Santosh Kumar, who runs a tea shop, says, “Don’t forget the Congress got decimated after ruling the country for decades. These days, you cannot take anything for granted.” Kumar, 25, is a BJP voter but says his views on the SP are not based on his political inclination. “I am being pragmatic. Just a few days ago, BSP candidate Narendra Nath Chauhan aka Ballu held a rally here. More than 80% of people in the rally were Muslims. My understanding is that while the BJP will retain its core vote, the Muslim community will shift from the SP to the BSP.”
Voters across the region perceive the spat in the Yadav family as unfortunate but a necessary exercise to cement Akhilesh Yadav’s position in his party.
“Sab dikhawaa hai (all of this was scripted),” Rajendra Yadav, 55, a motor-mechanic on Etawah-Mainpuri highway, declares. “Netaji has grown old and wants to give the command of the party to his son. Had he passed on the baton to Akhilesh in a usual manner, it would have caused heartburn for many, especially Shivpal. So, Akhilesh took charge of the party in the backdrop of a battle. This way, Akhilesh’s position got solidified. At the same time, no one can say Netaji made him the heir,” he explains his theory.
“Jhagdaa kis parivaar mein nahi hota? Log cycle ko jaante hain, bas (which family does not have disputes? Voters here identify only one party symbol, cycle),” says Ram Dular, a resident of Jaswantpur village.
People of Mainpuri are aware of the disenchantment among party workers in Etawah.
“Suna toh hai wahan kya hua. Par hamein nahi lagta ke wahan bhi jhagdey se vote par koi asar hoga. Is chetra mein bas sapaa hi hai (We have been hearing about developments over there. But I don’t think the fight will impact voting. People in this region only know SP),” Ram Dular adds.