By Mohit Dubey
Lucknow: Just over two months after Akhilesh Yadav took over the reins of Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadi Party seems to have fast-tracked its campaign to pitch party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav as the next prime ministerial candidate.
As the senior 73-year-old Yadav himself does not refute the ‘kendra ki mahatvakansha’ (central aspirations), the party has begun a dry run to gauge the minds of the people through its leaders, who have begun to portray the wrestler-turned-politician as the next prime minister.
Rajendra Chaudhary, a confidant of Mulayam Singh Yadav and party spokesman, on a visit to Ghaziabad near Delhi, billed him as the “fittest politician” for the top job and exhorted the socialist friends to work in this direction in the next Lok Sabha polls due in 2014.
The party machinery has swung into action, with a major publicity blitzkrieg planned for projecting the Yadav chieftain as the party’s prime ministerial candidate.
According to party sources, orders have been given for hundreds of thousands of posters, stickers, badges and other publicity material, with the parliament building in the backdrop and Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav waving to a large gathering.
Slogans like ‘UP to jeet liya, ab dilli ki baari hai’ (Uttar Pradesh has been won, now it is Delhi’s turn), ‘din raat cycle chalana hai, neta ji ko pradhanmantri banana hai’ (we have to make neta ji prime minister) have been coined and a mission has been set rolling.
Party insiders admit that the party, buoyed by a huge wave of support that propelled it to 224 seats in the 403-member state assembly, is now eyeing the “larger picture” and aiming to capture 60-65 seats so as to be in the king maker- like scenario in the next Lok Sabha.
Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadi Party’s main stronghold, accounts for 80 Lok Sabha seats. Although the party has a pan-India presence, Samajwadi leaders feel it should be able to mop up most seats in Uttar Pradesh two years from now.
The leadership of the party, including its general secretary and party leader in Rajya Sabha Ram Gopal Yadav, has been assigned the task of building bridges with United Progressive Alliance (UPA) allies and fence sitters, just in case the party repeats its success in the Lok Sabha elections.
Close aides of Mulayam Singh Yadav told IANS that ‘neta ji’ was not averse to the idea of being projected as the prime minister-to-be.
“He has relinquished the UP’s top seat for two reasons – ill health and his ambitions for a larger role at the central level,” a senior party leader said. Tuesday, a traders’ group held a convention here and vowed “not to rest till Mulayam became the next PM”.
The event had the blessings and support of the Samajwadi Party leaders.
Interestingly, the man at the centre of all this has himself not shied away from making his prime ministerial ambitions obvious.
Soon after his party’s stunning election victory, he had chided an overzealous crowd at Etawah to be disciplined or he would never be able to become prime minister.
“Aap logon ko anushasan seekhna hoga agar aap mujhe pradhan mantri bante dekhna chahte hain to.” (You people will have to observe discipline, if you want to see me as prime minister), he had told the crowd.
Old hands in the socialist movement told IANS that Yadav’s prime ministerial ambition is known as he has never hidden his willingness for the top job.
Mulayam Singh missed the bus in 1996 when stiff opposition from Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad put a rude brake to his election as prime minister by the Third Front