Samajwadi Party President Mulayam Singh Yadav’s decision to shove his 38-year-old, Australia-educated son Akhilesh Yadav onto the hot seat of Uttar Pradesh chief minister is shrewd realpolitik driven by two key objectives. One is to counter the Rahul Gandhi factor in the next parliamentary elections, which SP may push to be held before the currently scheduled 2014. The second consideration is to enable the elder Yadav to devote more time and energy to national politics and prepare the 72 year-old for the premiership.
The fact is that most of the new crop of 224 SP assembly members were handpicked by Akhilesh, who apparently over-rode objections from his uncles Ram Gopal and Shiv Pal, and party stalwart Azam Khan, in selecting the candidates. It seems only fitting, therefore, that Akhilesh leads the new look SP team in governance, too.
Mulayam’s masterstroke has already caused consternation in Congress circles, as the national party now has to contend with a new political challenger in UP.
But the SP leadership has, for its part, taken very seriously Rahul Gandhi’s insistence that he wasn’t only interested in the just-concluded state assembly poll, and that he will stay with the people of Uttar Pradesh for as long as it takes Congress to regain power in the state.
Mulayam has the party’s backing for loftier goals on the national scene, and his initial central government goal is undoubtedly the presidential election, due in July. SP’s objective is to ensure that a non-United Progressive Alliance, non-Bharatiya Janata Party candidate, preferably a Muslim, is elected as president of India. The SP’s long-term goal is said to be to secure at least 50 of the 80 seats UP sends to the parliament at the next general election.