Why Mulayam as the unhappy patriarch suits SP

It is not even a year since his son Akhilesh Yadav took over as Chief Minister, but Mulayam Singh Yadav is already dissatisfied. In less than a month, he has aired several grievances: that the ministers have surrounded themselves with sycophants and only watch their own personal interests; that the government is being run by a few officers, each of whom holds charge of several departments; that orders from the CM's secretariat are not taken seriously; and that no one listens to party cadres, neither ministers, nor officers. All this in a government where Mulayam Singh is commonly regarded as some kind of a super chief minister.

As Samajwadi Party president, Mulayam spends a lot of his time sitting in the party office, meeting visiting partymen from across the state and listening to them. In recent months, the feedback he has been getting apparently has not been heartening. Party workers complain of drift and their neglect by ministers, not to talk of officials.

For Mulayam, this is ominous. He has been nursing hope of the SP winning enough Lok Sabha seats in 2014 to give him the leverage to emerge as prime minister of a non-Congress, non-BJP coalition. A demoralised party cadre can spoil this dream.

At the same time, the old hand at politics knows that his cause would be served better by speaking out in public rather than having a talk with his son in private. This is Mulayam's way of telling the cadres that they have his ear. This is his way of reassuring them that he cares for them, and will prod the government to change its ways. He has, in fact, stated that the party is above the government.

The CM, on his part, has tried to play down the criticism, saying Netaji (Mulayam) is an elder statesman and if he points out any shortcomings, these need to be addressed. Akhilesh has also promised "visible change" soon.

However, a quick fix is far from possible. Akhilesh may be the CM but his government is riven by many pulls and pressures. There is Mulayam himself, as a patriarch who is above everyone. Then there is Ramgopal Yadav, the party general secretary, who is another power centre, apart from smaller players. Add to this a mindset which believes that populism is a substitute for governance.

Faisal is a senior correspondent based in Lucknow, mohd.fareed@expressindia.com

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