The manner in which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) received Samajwadi Party (SP) patron Mulayam Singh Yadav’s daughter-in-law Aparna Yadav into the party fold at its central office in New Delhi on Wednesday is a measure of how much it values the new catch. Party chief JP Nadda and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath were both present to receive her. It is ironic that the BJP, which always describes the SP as a ‘parivar’ (family) party, should show so much reverence to a turncoat from the same family. She can be considered only as a greenhorn in politics, though she contested on the SP ticket and lost to BJP candidate Rita Bahuguna by a marginof 34,000 votes in the 2017 election. Why the BJP thinks that she is a great asset is because it thinks that it can confuse the Yadav voters and thereby fish in troubled waters. Alas, politics is the art of the possible and voters do not think on such simplisticterms.
What is not understood is that the SP is no longer what it used to be under Mulayam Singh Yadav. He and his brothers, son Akhilesh and his wife Dimple Yadav, all held high positions in the party.The paterfamilias has more or less retired from politics. His brothers, who could call the shots at one time, are no longer a force to reckon with in the party or the state. Forget all of them, even Dimple Yadav is not seen beside her husband as he campaigns. In short, Akhilesh Yadav, who served as chief minister for a full term, holds the commanding position in the party. That is why he is the least perturbed by Aparna Yadav’s departure for the BJP. Who does not know that in the family’s pecking order, she comes lower, as she is the wife of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s son from his second wife?
If anyone in the BJP thinks that by snatching her from the SP,it has made up for the loss of Swami Prasad Maurya and Dharam Singh Saini, Yogi’s ministerial colleagues, they are mistaken. Both have a large following, particularly among the other backward classes, who constitute about 35 per cent of the electorate. Their resignation from the party signalled a tectonic shiftin the fortunes of the BJP which appeared to be in the ascendant until then. The sudden importance the BJP gives to smaller outfits like the Apna Dal and the Nishad Party with which it has entered into a deal shows its earnestness to protect its flanks. Similarly, Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra Teni, whose son is in jail, accused of killing some farmers under the wheels of his vehicles, has been dropped from the list of campaigners. The party does not want to risk the votes of farmers by fielding him as a campaigner. However, his very presence in the Union ministry is a dampener for the party supporters in the state and outside.
Interestingly, while the party sets great store by Aparna Yadav’s family connections, it has decided to give a go-by to Maneka Gandhi and her son and MP Feroze Varun Gandhi as party campaigners. The reason why the mother-son duo has become politically untouchable for the BJP leadership is because the two have been sounding discordant notes on the farmers’ issue and the achievements on the employment front the governments at the Centre and in UP have been making. While much activity is seen in the BJP and SP camps, the Bahujan Samaj Party has been lackadaisical so much so that speculations abound about why Mayawati is not in the forefront of the campaign. The Congress under Priyanka Gandhi’s leadership has been making noises through some imaginative campaigning but the billion-rupee question is whether it would be able to retain the seats it won in 2017, when the SP says it will not have even a local level understanding with the grand old party.
Whatever be the final line-up, one thing is for sure. The election will be a referendum on the Yogi government. The last five years saw a Rajput priest turning the state machinery into a temple apparatus, with privileged and exclusive access for certain castes. The tough measures he took when the agitation against the new citizenship law reached its peak, the failure to take steps to deal with the Covid spread and the pushing of the Muslims and the Dalits who survived on tannery work into abject poverty will all find a reflection in the voting.