Apart from age and health issues, the political gladiators of the past, estranged by their ‘Samajwadi Jagada tradition’, are now united in their twilight by the common threat of the Modi-led BJP which has run over their turfs, notwithstanding the fact that all of them had once flourished in the company of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, later BJP, against the Congress, along with the CPI-M. After the demolition of the Babri Masjid, they flourished with equal aplomb in ‘anti-BJPism’ in the company of the Congress and Marxists.
If Mulayam’s SP was routed in the last two LS polls and 2017 assembly elections by BJP, Prasad’s RJD in Bihar and Deve Gowda’s JDS in Karnataka have suffered almost similar fates. In the case of Sharad Yadav, he was expelled from Nitish Kumar’s JDU for revolting against its realignment with Modi-led BJP, resulting in a lingering political and legal battle. BJP’s surge poses an existential challenge for these Socialists to retrieve their perches or perish.
Mulayam, Prasad and Gowda also share an anxiety with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and most regional party leaders on protecting their ‘dynasts’. Some wondered if Prasad’s advertised soft corner for Ram Vilas Paswan’s politically stranded son Chirag was as much tactical as it was reflective of his concern for another political ‘heir’.
“The time has come for all, the Socialists, the Congress, the Communists and regional parties, to join hands against the RSS-BJP. The need is a common front, not a third front or fourth front, because the fight ahead is no more limited to political issues, but is about fighting for the future of our nation, the future of India’s democracy,” said Sharad Yadav, who made his first political outing in almost two years on Thursday by visiting Mulayam Singh at his Delhi residence. Sharad Yadav was seriously ill and was in and out of hospitals in the interim.
Yadav said he and Mulayam Singh had discussed — also earlier with Prasad and Gowda — the ‘extremely worrisome’ national political situation. “All of us are worried about the way the country is run, the things happening around us. I feel everybody should rise above egos, overlook bitterness of the past and come together. It can’t happen overnight, but certainly serious efforts should be made in that direction,” he said. Yadav, who was chief of the united Janata Dal that comprised Mulayam, Prasad, Biju Patnaik, Gowda, Chautala and Paswan, before each went their separate ways, added: “There are critical times in the life of a nation, when all of us have to rise above bruised egos and overlook the bitter fights of the past.”
Two of the ‘Socialist Parivar’, Nitish Kumar’s JDU and Dushyant Chautala’s JJP are allies of BJP, while Patnaik’s BJD remains equidistant from BJP and Congress. Abhay Chautala’s party, meanwhile, has been left between BJP and Congress. But all of them face the heat of BJP’s expansionist quest. The unwillingness to give up their personal fief for a common unity and vulnerabilities in confronting the party at power at the Centre had thwarted a Samajwadi reunification project a few years ago.
Therefore, the question arises whether these battle-hardened, but ravaged, Samajwadis still have the will and stamina to at least come closer to fight their common rival, by overlooking their old conflicts in order to protect leftover trappings of power, turfs and family fiefs.