Back to Netaji
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MPs must be banned from addressing the House in English, says Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. Those who do so have a "double character", Netaji claims, because do they not ask for the vote in Hindi? With these statements, the SP chief has finally turned the clock back to the past in Uttar Pradesh. It is as if his son Akhilesh Yadav's 2012 assembly poll campaign never happened, in which he spoke a new language that won the people's trust, across castes and communities in a notoriously fragmented state, weaning votes from every competitor. That was the campaign in which Akhilesh emphasised the untangling of criminality and politics and made an effort to distance the SP from its image of a party that presided over a "goonda raj" in its last stint in power in UP. Akhilesh's efforts to soften the SP's backward-looking and either-or positions on computers and English were part of the same campaign.
If Akhilesh stood for anything when he came to power, it was for a promise — untested, of course — of a more modern and forward-looking government in the state that would not trade on its several deep-set divides. It was hoped that under his leadership, the SP would begin a generational change, make a start towards renewing itself not just in age but also in ideas, update its pact with a younger voter. At its most ambitious, the hope was also this: the Akhilesh Yadav government would begin a governance turnaround in UP like the one that had been initiated by Nitish Kumar in neighbouring Bihar.