family politics

As the Yadav family feud rages, the Samajwadi Party is cracking at the base

Regional party structures are crumbling as candidates and cadre look for options in the run-up to elections. Political rivals are also on the prowl.

The outcome of the family drama at the Samajwadi Party is not yet known but it has already started to bear consequences at the regional levels. In the run-up to Assembly elections early next year, some candidates are looking for greener pastures while others, more strongly affiliated to the party, are suffering as a result of divided loyalties between various members of the Yadav clan.

Even a centralised family-led party like the Samajwadi Party is dependent on its troops on the ground, and the current uncertainty is pushing some of its local faces to adapt their strategy and calculations for the elections to the current scenario.

In Western Uttar Pradesh, for instance, the cadre is strongly connected to dominant political families in the region, such as the Swaroops in Muzaffarnagar, the Manzoors in Meerut, the Chaudharys and Masoods in Saharanpur, and the Hasans and Chauhans in Shamli. Members of these families contest the elections, such as Gaurav Swaroop in Muzaffarnagar, Nahid Hasan in Kairana or Shahid Manzoor in Kithore. Their confidantes lead village or district-level party branches. Jaiveer Singh, considered Shahid Manzoor’s right-hand man, is the party pointsperson in Meerut. And Mazahir Hasan Mukhiya, associated with both the Masoods and Chaudharys, takes on that role in Saharanpur.

These families control the party structure at this level, oversee its funding by forging ties with businesses, and nurture party candidates and cadre within their networks. Other Samajwadi Party candidates are also dependent on them for campaigning and mobilisation in their areas of influence.

The regional political families and the Yadav family in Lucknow have a mutual dependency. The Yadavs need them to conduct party business. And the families need the Yadavs to expand their clout and business and to secure protection against their opponents.

But with the Yadav family divided – with Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav pitted against his father and party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and uncle Shivpal Yadav – this arrangement is being shaken. In particular, party candidates are getting increasingly anxious that their campaigns will suffer as a result of the feud.

Candidates insecure

In a party like the Samajwadi Party, there are three types of candidates. The first are loyalists who tend to draw their strength from their long association with the party. The second are candidates whose political strength comes from their own dominant positions, irrespective of party affiliation. They may or may not be loyalists. And the third type are the turncoats, political mercenaries recruited from other parties to divide their vote base.

Each type conducts their politics differently, but they all need to maintain ties with the party structure in their respective regions.

In the present situation, all of them are in trouble, for a variety of reasons. The loyalists and turncoats are almost entirely dependent on the party structure for campaigning, and face the difficult task of having to pick a side – between Mulayam Singh Yadav, Shivpal Yadav, their cousin Ram Gopal Yadav, and Akhilesh Yadav. Much of their future, including the certainty of their ticket, now depends on the choice they make.

Some who are loyal to the chief minister have already paid the price for their affiliation. State party chief Shivpal Yadav, who was dropped from Akhilesh Yadav’s cabinet on October 23, cancelled the tickets of Atul Pradhan from Sardhana, Vimla Rakesh from Rampur Maniharan and Kiranpal Kashyap from Thanabhavan.

The independently strong candidates are less affected by the turmoil in Lucknow. They tend to belong to the powerful regional political families, from which they draw their strength. They are already influential in their areas through their caste and patronage networks. Most of them have ties with village and block district committee heads and zilla parishad members. However, they still need the party’s support when they go beyond these networks.

These candidates may be tempted to simply wait for the final outcome of the family feud. But by doing so, they risk losing their grip over the party structure, because the rank and file tend to be quicker to switch allegiance. The other risk is that whoever wins in Lucknow might eventually punish them for their indecision.

There is already evidence that local structures have started to crumble, pushing their bosses and candidates to pick a side.

But of the three categories of candidates, the turncoats are the most anxious. They have left their former parties with the hope of joining a stronger one that gives them a better chance of winning at the hustings. Also, choosing sides may not help them as their move to the Samajwadi Party was in all probability organised within a particular faction. These candidates were already facing hostility from party members in their respective areas and now cannot count on much support from the top.

Threat of defections

In the midst of the Samajwadi Party’s troubles, the Bharatiya Janata Party is reportedly trying to convince its members to desert the party and join its ranks, even informally. The weeks that preceded the latest family outburst – when Mulayam Singh Yadav expelled Ram Gopal Yadav from the party promptly after Akhilesh Yadav dropped Shivpal Yadav as minister – had already seen the beginning of a migration of Samajwadi Party leaders to the BJP.

If the Yadav family crisis does not subside quickly, this movement may gain momentum and the Samajwadi Party may face more defections and betrayals. The logic of affiliation that ties candidates and cadre to their party in Uttar Pradesh is based on mutual interests rather than ideology. Affiliation is, therefore, fluid or malleable.

The chief minister is probably counting on a victory against his uncle and father, and on his ability to garner the support of voters through his development record. But in Western Uttar Pradesh, where everything is mediated through the regional power brokers and party structures, his strategy may fail to win him any seats.

The writer is a Research Fellow at Trivedi Centre for Political Data, Ashoka University. These are his personal views.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content  BY 

As India turns 70, London School of Economics asks some provocative questions

Is India ready to become a global superpower?

Meaningful changes have always been driven by the right, but inconvenient questions. As India completes 70 years of its sovereign journey, we could do two things – celebrate, pay our token tributes and move on, or take the time to reflect and assess if our course needs correction. The ‘India @ 70: LSE India Summit’, the annual flagship summit of the LSE (London School of Economics) South Asia Centre, is posing some fundamental but complex questions that define our future direction as a nation. Through an honest debate – built on new research, applied knowledge and ground realities – with an eclectic mix of thought leaders and industry stalwarts, this summit hopes to create a thought-provoking discourse.

From how relevant (or irrelevant) is our constitutional framework, to how we can beat the global one-upmanship games, from how sincere are business houses in their social responsibility endeavours to why water is so crucial to our very existence as a strong nation, these are some crucial questions that the event will throw up and face head-on, even as it commemorates the 70th anniversary of India’s independence.

Is it time to re-look at constitution and citizenship in India?

The Constitution of India is fundamental to the country’s identity as a democratic power. But notwithstanding its historical authority, is it perhaps time to examine its relevance? The Constitution was drafted at a time when independent India was still a young entity. So granting overwhelming powers to the government may have helped during the early years. But in the current times, they may prove to be more discriminatory than egalitarian. Our constitution borrowed laws from other countries and continues to retain them, while the origin countries have updated them since then. So, do we need a complete overhaul of the constitution? An expert panel led by Dr Mukulika Banerjee of LSE, including political and economic commentator S Gurumurthy, Madhav Khosla of Columbia University, Niraja Gopal Jayal of JNU, Chintan Chandrachud the author of the book Balanced Constitutionalism and sociologist, legal researcher and Director of Council for Social Development Kalpana Kannabiran will seek answers to this.

Is CSR simply forced philanthropy?

While India pioneered the mandatory minimum CSR spend, has it succeeded in driving impact? Corporate social responsibility has many dynamics at play. Are CSR initiatives mere tokenism for compliance? Despite government guidelines and directives, are CSR activities well-thought out initiatives, which are monitored and measured for impact? The CSR stipulations have also spawned the proliferation of ambiguous NGOs. The session, ‘Does forced philanthropy work – CSR in India?” will raise these questions of intent, ethics and integrity. It will be moderated by Professor Harry Barkema and have industry veterans such as Mukund Rajan (Chairman, Tata Council for Community Initiatives), Onkar S Kanwar (Chairman and CEO, Apollo Tyres), Anu Aga (former Chairman, Thermax) and Rahul Bajaj (Chairman, Bajaj Group) on the panel.

Can India punch above its weight to be considered on par with other super-powers?

At 70, can India mobilize its strengths and galvanize into the role of a serious power player on the global stage? The question is related to the whole new perception of India as a dominant power in South Asia rather than as a Third World country, enabled by our foreign policies, defense strategies and a buoyant economy. The country’s status abroad is key in its emergence as a heavyweight but the foreign service officers’ cadre no longer draws top talent. Is India equipped right for its aspirations? The ‘India Abroad: From Third World to Regional Power’ panel will explore India’s foreign policy with Ashley Tellis, Meera Shankar (Former Foreign Secretary), Kanwal Sibal (Former Foreign Secretary), Jayant Prasad and Rakesh Sood.

Are we under-estimating how critical water is in India’s race ahead?

At no other time has water as a natural resource assumed such a big significance. Studies estimate that by 2025 the country will become ‘water–stressed’. While water has been the bone of contention between states and controlling access to water, a source for political power, has water security received the due attention in economic policies and development plans? Relevant to the central issue of water security is also the issue of ‘virtual water’. Virtual water corresponds to the water content (used) in goods and services, bulk of which is in food grains. Through food grain exports, India is a large virtual net exporter of water. In 2014-15, just through export of rice, India exported 10 trillion litres of virtual water. With India’s water security looking grim, are we making the right economic choices? Acclaimed author and academic from the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi, Amita Bavisar will moderate the session ‘Does India need virtual water?’

Delve into this rich confluence of ideas and more at the ‘India @ 70: LSE India Summit’, presented by Apollo Tyres in association with the British Council and organized by Teamworks Arts during March 29-31, 2017 at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. To catch ‘India @ 70’ live online, register here.

At the venue, you could also visit the Partition Museum. Dedicated to the memory of one of the most conflict-ridden chapters in our country’s history, the museum will exhibit a unique archive of rare photographs, letters, press reports and audio recordings from The Partition Museum, Amritsar.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Teamwork Arts and not by the Scroll editorial team.