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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 8, February 15, 2014

Acid Test for Mulayam

Monday 17 February 2014, by Nikhil Chakravartty

From N.C.’s Writings

Varanasi and Kanpur are the danger signals which Mulayam Singh Yadav can hardly afford to underplay. The significant impact that was made on the Indian political scene by his victory in the December elections along with his allies, ousting the BJP in office from the key State of Uttar Pradesh, would be grievously dissipated if his government is shown up as incompetent to govern.

The very character of the support that Mulayam Singh’s government has been able to muster tempts its adversaries to indulge in the toppling game. In reality, his majority is largely a negative get-together of those who want to keep the BJP out of power. Apart from this single-point objective, there is very little of common interest or common objectives that bind these parties together. Even Mulayam’s closest ally, Kanshi Ram, has been touring the country harping on the political importance of his own party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, instead of under-lining the importance of the coalition as a whole.

The Congress having become so effete is no longer in a position to play a decisive role in the politics of UP. The Janata Dal is in a shambles as a political party since its leaders from V.P. Singh downward have throughout ignored the importance of building a party worth the name.

In this scenario, it is but natural for the BJP leadership to take every possible advantage to bring down the Mulayam Government. Caught within its own ranks by confusion and acute dissonance over the perspective before the party itself—the moderate parliamentary line or the rowdy path of fanatic militancy—there could not have been a better opportunity before the BJP leadership to take the maximum possible advantage of the Mulayam Government’s discom-fiture with the caste and communal tensions.

The ramshackle character of the Mulayam Government has also accelerated the tension that has been brewing between the Dalits and the aggressive elements among the Backward Classes, particularly the Kurmis and the Yadavs. The conflict of interests between these two camps in the countryside in the Hindi belt can hardly be overlooked. At the same time, the expectations so long were that given the fact that Mulayam Singh’s side could win the elections with the support of the underdogs—the Dalits, the Backwards and the Muslim minority—that at least for sometime to come the rift between the Dalits and the Backwards could be patched up in their common interest to ward off the long-held domination of the upper castes. It is on this point, the Mulayam Government has to do a lot of severe self-introspection.

A ruling estalishment so precariously placed has to summon its strength, capacity and wisdom to the utmost limit to ensure a stable and competent government. Mass support spon-taneously welled up when the Ministry was formed as it was instantly identified as the champion of the underprivileged. But spon-taneity on its own can hardly sustain a Ministry. If in the election campaign the caste solidarity was effected in a common front against the upper-caste domination, the morrow of the victory saw the assertion of the more powerful among the backward-Dalit combine against the more vulnerable ones. That is how the Yadavs and the Kurmis have been flexing their muscles in UP as they have started persecuting the Dalits who on their part have ceased to be docile as before.

Here lies the real challenge for Mualyam Singh Yadav. He has to understand that it is not enough for him to have won the poll battle, more exacting is to conduct himself as the leader of the entire combine and not just of his own caste and kith and kin. This way alone can he not only weld together the disparate elements that support his government but enlist the respect and authority of the bureaucracy to ensure a stable and efficient administration. Bureaucracy by its very nature responds positively to a firm and stable political leadership; but when it finds the political leadership weak or venal, its attitude becomes nonchalant.

There is another dimension to the UP situation today. The issues at stake there are far-reaching—not just a question of the survival of a Ministry standing as a roadblock to the BJP’s path to power. Nor is it just a question of the collapse of an elected government and the imposition of President’s Rule. If the UP Government cannot sustain itself in power and goes down before the onrush of caste and communal violence, then this would spread like a prairie fire all over the region which is considered as the very heartland of the country. It needs to be noted, therefore, that the serious happenings in Uttar Pradesh today have a profound bearing on the fate of the country as a whole.

(Mainstream, February 14, 1994)