Hindustan Times (Lucknow)

UP CM, a modern socialist, looks to change status quo?

- Srinand Jha

NEW DELHI: By taking on his uncle Shivpal, has Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav signaled his intents to free himself of family encumbranc­es? Is he attempting to reinvent socialist politics in the Hindi heartland? Or is it all shadow boxing?

Whatever the case, this much is clear: Among heirs of regional political groups, Akhilesh is the only one who is venturing into an unchartere­d political territory.

Sons and daughters —heirs of regional satraps who built influentia­l empires for decades — have mostly been content with the status quo.

While the legacy question is settled in Akhilesh’s case, the succession issue remains caught up in sibling rivalries in other parties.

Akhilesh has attempted to carve out an image as a “modern socialist” — at variance from the traditiona­l old-school subaltern agenda promoted by his father, Mulayam. In the run-up to the 2012 assembly elections, the promise of distributi­on of laptops to youth was included in the Samajwadi Party (SP) manifesto at Akhilesh’s insistence. The SP’s traditiona­l abhorrence to English education has also lost its sharpness in the fourand-a-half years of Akhilesh at the helm in Lucknow. The chief minister has also been convening big investor conclaves in Mumbai, Delhi and Lucknow.

“In order to remain relevant, socialist politics needs to be reinvented in order to establish a link with the aspiration­s of the Gen-Next. Among his family members, Akhilesh is the one who understand­s this best,” said a veteran SP watcher.

Before the SP’s family feud erupted in the open, Akhilesh had been disparagin­gly referred to as “Chief Minister No.5” — after Mulayam Singh, Ram Gopal, Shivpal and Azam Khan. In the last four-and-a-half years, the SP has been pulled in different directions by Akhilesh’s family members or associates of the SP patriarch. Ahead of next year’s elections, Akhilesh has provided himself with an opportunit­y to break out of the cocoon.

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