Akhilesh praises Modi, is SP going soft on BJP?
When Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav backed Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the controversy over his frequent foreign trips, it sent ripples through political circle.
“People are saying that the Prime Minister is going abroad. It is good for the country as it is bringing investments,” Yadav had told reporters in UP's Fatehpur.
Bhartiya Janata party (BJP) took it quite positively, as a proof of acceptance of Modi's foreign trips. Party spokesperson, Sambit Patra was quick to respond and called it “an example of political prudence.”
Congress, however, was not ready to agree with Akhilesh's remark and said that it does not object to Modi's trips but the way he talks about previous UPA regime is quite objectionable. The party also took strong exception to his penchant for portraying his 'larger than life' image.
Well, its BJP's chance to grab the opportunity to term it as Modi's success and its Congress' 'duty' as opposition to criticize him.
But Akhilesh's support to Modi on his foreign trips has initiated a new debate in political circles.
Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party and Modi's BJP are like North and South poles in terms of ideology. If a graph of Modi's and Akhilesh's social and economic policies is to be drawn, there is a very slim chance that those graphs would ever meet. Yet, Akhilesh supported Modi on his foreign trips and even defended it.
It was not just a chance, it was not a slip of tongue, it was a well thought, well weighed and well calculated move.
Among all the political wars in run up to Lok Sabha elections last year, the one between SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav and BJP's prime ministerial candidate Modi was the strongest. The reason? The road to Delhi goes through UP. Winning in UP was very important for BJP, not only because the state has the most seats but also because it influences the political inclination of most of the country. Ayodhya, BJP's lifeline before Modi came to the centre of BJP's affairs was the biggest political promise the party could ever make, falls in UP. Even the personal mudslinging between Modi and Mulayam went upto measuring each other's chest. SP was the biggest loser when BJP succeeded in winning 71 seats in the state which surprised even the most experienced and capable psephologists in the party itself.
Following the debacle SP should've upped its attack on Modi, but it hasn't happened. SP has taken relatively softer stand on a majority of policy matters initiated by Modi government. Even the Land Bill was not good enough for them to attack Modi government. Instead, Mulayam displayedhis bonhomie with Modi on several occasions, including the one on his grand-nephew's wedding.
Looking back at SP's one year in politics, it hasn't been at its best. And Akhilesh Yadav's remark was just a testimony to his party's stand.
Modi's first year in office has been pretty good, as the experts say, but to call it extraordinary would definitely be an exaggeration. When Congress could rise from the ashes to find faults in Modi government, why could not Samajwadi Party? Even Modi's ministers' controversial remarks could not give enough ammunition to the ruling party of the biggest state.
There could be more than one reason that would justify SP's political stance vis-a-vis Modi.
1. SP needs support of centre to get the development wheel moving.
That would be the most logical point that could justify SP's stand. Akhilesh definitely needs Modi to help him build the state before he goes to polls in less than 2 years. But this is still not good enough to convince a self-declared socialist party to take a soft stand against a right-wing party.
2. SP trying to get rid of its anti-Hindu image.
It would not be wrong to say that SP is loosing its traditional Muslim (and even lost some portion of Yadav votes to BJP in General elections) vote bank. SP is likely to lose its vote share to Asaduddin Owaisi's AIMIM, Mayawati's BSP and other parties in upcoming assembly elections. The only way to compensate it is to get Hindu votes that got alienated because of its 'Muslim appeasement' policies. And SP thinks that the best way to do that is to desist from attacking Modi on every issue.
3. SP does not have enough firepower to counter Modi and has surrendered
This would be really hard to believe but there is some probability, even if minute, that SP is intimidated by Modi's persona. There is no leader (may be to some extent Mulayam) who could counter Modi in terms of popularity.
To sum up, Akhilesh's remark was not a casual statement. It was a well thought out master-stroke aimed at clearing the boundary for maximum runs.