On the final day of the 16th Lok Sabha’s last session of Parliament, Samajwadi Party patron Mulayam Singh Yadav sprang a surprise, showering praise on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and appreciating his efforts to try and take everyone along and all sections of the House along.
Then came what many in the Opposition benches would call a surprise of surprises — his parting wish of the 16th Lok Sabha was that in the 17th Lok Sabha, he would like to see Modi return as prime minister. “Pradhan Mantri ko badhaai dena chahta hoon ki pradhan mantri ne sabko saath lekar chalne ki koshish ki hai. Main aap ka aadar garta hoon aapka samman karta hoon. Main kehna chahta hun ki saare sadasya phir se jeet kar aayen, aur aap, Pradhan Mantriji, dobara pradhan mantri banein.” (I want to congratulate the prime minister for trying to take everyone along. I respect you, I honour you. I want to see all present members of the House get elected as MPs and you, Mr Prime Minister, become prime minister again). Mulayan then gestured towards Modi with folded hands.
Modi laughed and responded with folded hands. A surprised Sonia Gandhi first laughed and then was seen talking to NCP leader Supriya Sule. Mulayam went on thanking Modi for his leadership.
The former Uttar Pradesh chief minister’s words were music to the ears of the Treasury benches. This came at a time when the BJP’s biggest challenge in the upcoming Lok Sabha election is to come from Uttar Pradesh.
The newly-formed Samajwadi Party-BSP alliance is arithmetically very strong and has the potential to adversely impact the BJP’s prospects in the state where it had won 73 (including two by its ally, Apna Dal). The BJP could use Mulayam’s statement as its key electoral issue in Uttar Pradesh to say there can’t be a greater endorsement for Modi’s work as prime minister and his re-election than somebody like Mulayam’s rich praise.
The significance of Mulayam’s statement lay in the fact that he is considered to the original ‘dharti-putra‘ — a self-made, rooted-to-ground and wily politician from the politically-critical Hindi heartland state. His line of politics is otherwise diametrically opposed to that of Modi and the BJP’s Hindutva politics. Although he is not in the best of health, his son Akhilesh Yadav has snatched the reins of authority in his own party, but the Samajwadi Party patriarch’s wish is still a command for a section of party followers, at least among the older generations of Yadavs. “Netaji”, as he is fondly called, is still admired by old-time Samajawdis in Uttar Pradesh.
By saying what he said in his last speech in the 16th Lok Sabha (nobody is quite sure whether he will fight the coming election), which could well be his last speech on the floor of the House, it becomes hugely significant for a vast mass of Samajwadi Party cadres. He has clearly indicated that he is not happy with the way son Akhilesh has yielded space to Mayawati’s BSP, bending to terms dictated by Mayawati. He clearly let the world know that he does not like Akhilesh backing the prime ministerial candidature of Mayawati or Mamata Banerjee or Rahul Gandhi. He would rather see Modi return as prime minister.
When Akhilesh Yadav had sidelined Mulayam in the run up to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election and struck an alliance with Rahul, giving the Congress 100 seats, it was said that Mulayam was not happy with the decision, but he didn’t say son in public. The 2017 Assembly election spelled doom for the Samajwadi Party. Mulayam perhaps foresees a similar situation for his party in the next parliamentary election, a party he built with decades of hard work.
Outside of the House, Rahul Gandhi, at a press conference, disagreed with Mulayam’s remarks. The BJP is already going gaga over this. It has got the ammunition its so desperately required to puncture the Samajwadi Party-BSP alliance. The BJP and RSS with its huge organisational machinery will do everything in its power to swing it in its favour.
When Modi’s turn came to speak, to make concluding remarks of his present tenure on floor of the House in Lok Sabha, he ended his speech by “specially thanking” Mulayam. Modi called his tenure as the “beginning of his first innings”.
The other loaded message that he gave was giving credit to a “full majority government” and in turn, to 125 crore Indians for voting overwhelmingly in 2014. He obviously hopes that people will repose the same trust in him in the coming election. Dalit icon BR Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi came in for repeated reference in his speech, so was the crackdown on black money and corruption.
His sarcasm was reserved for Rahul Gandhi, albeit without mentioning the Congress president’s name — that the five-year tenure of the Lok Sabha is over, but “no earthquake” was felt (Rahul had famously said that there would be an earthquake if he was allowed to speak) inside the House, but some tried to fly paper airplanes (senior Congress leaders had done that while protesting against Rafale deal). Then he referred to Rahul’s hug and wink, stating that he learned the difference between gale lagna and gale padna.