Padma award for Mulayam ploy to ‘silence Bharat Ratna demand’, woo SP votebank, say party leaders

Padma award for Mulayam ploy to ‘silence Bharat Ratna demand’, woo SP votebank, say party leaders

Political experts say since 2014 the Yadav community has been showing a tilt towards the BJP in Lok Sabha elections, while it continues to vote for the SP in assembly polls.

File photo of SP supporters at a ceremony organised to pay tribute to party founder and former UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav on his birth anniversary, in Saifai on November 22. | ANI

File photo of SP supporters at a ceremony organised to pay tribute to party founder and former UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav on his birth anniversary, in Saifai on November 22. | ANI

Lucknow: The BJP-led central government Wednesday announced that Samajwadi Party (SP) founder, late Mulayam Singh Yadav, would be posthumously conferred the Padma Vibhushan – India’s second highest civilian honour. The decision is being perceived as a “shrewd” move, and not just the BJP’s “old attempt to reach out to the Yadav community,” considered the core votebank of the SP, their main rival in UP.

Soon after the announcement, senior SP leaders repeated an old demand — that ‘Netaji’ (Mulayam), who died 10 October 2022, should have been conferred the Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian honour, instead.

While the announcement has set the political rumour mills buzzing about the ruling BJP’s outreach to the Yadav community, SP leaders accepted in private that the move is “just shrewd politics” to “silence all voices of demands for Bharat Ratna” for Netaji who was the “face of anti-communal” politics in Uttar Pradesh, a sharp contrast from the BJP whose resurgence in the state was marked with the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and the Rath Yatra of the late 1980s and 1990s.

Hours after the announcement was made, Mainpuri MP and SP national president Akhilesh Yadav’s wife Dimple Yadav, and his uncle Shivpal Yadav repeated the demand for Bharat Ratna for ‘Netaji’.

Dimple and Akhilesh had reached their pocket borough Saifai for Republic Day celebrations and flag hoisting ceremony.

“Netaji will be conferred the Padma Vibhushan (by the government) but I think he should have got a Bharat Ratna. And this honour should have come much earlier. It is our demand that Netaji is conferred the Bharat Ratna,” Dimple told mediapersons Thursday.


Pressed by mediapersons for a comment on the demand for Bharat Ratna for Mulayam, Shivpal said in Etawah, “Netaji had always raised the voice of farmers and the poor which is why the demand of all workers and supporters should be fulfilled.”

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‘Move to silence demand for Bharat Ratna for Netaji’

While SP leaders are saying that the announcement was “not expected,” several party insiders ThePrint spoke to admitted that the move did not come as a surprise as demand for Bharat Ratna for Netaji was raised even before his death and several party leaders had vociferously raised the demand after his death.

In 2020, party leader Deepak Mishra raised the demand that the Bharat Ratna be conferred on the three-time CM and former defence minister which was followed by a signature campaign to gather support.

After Mulayam’s death, several SP leaders raised the demand. Party spokesperson I.P. Singh wrote to the President, demanding the country’s highest honour for Mulayam. He had also written to the UP CM that the Agra-Lucknow expressway be named “Dhartiputra Mulayam Singh Yadav Expressway.” Sambhal MLA Iqbal Mehmood had made a similar demand too.

Speaking to ThePrint, SP chief spokesperson Rajendra Chowdhary said that “the BJP has an agenda” and that “there was no talk of any such honour” for Netaji. However, insiders said that the move has not come as a surprise.

“This is a shrewd move by the BJP. They want to ensure that the voices for Bharat Ratna for Netaji be silenced and also continue their outreach to the Yadavs who are the core voters of the SP,” a former SP MLA from the Yadav community told ThePrint.

Some leaders remembered how the senior leadership of the UP BJP had reached Saifai to pay homage to ‘Netaji’ after his death while Union Home minister Amit Shah had reached Medanta hospital where Yadav remained admitted for days before his death.
From UP CM Yogi Adityanath to Union Jal Shakti minister Swatantra Dev Singh, and BJP state president Bhupendra Singh Chaudhary, several party leaders, including Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, had visited Saifai then.

“It was all politics… There was no emotion but only politics,” a senior party leader said to ThePrint.

BJP eyeing the Yadavs but it’s nothing new

Political experts say since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP has been trying to woo the Yadav community which has shown a tilt towards it in the Lok Sabha polls as compared to the assembly elections.

According to the data from the National Election Study conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), while 53 per cent of the Yadavs had voted for the SP in 2014, the BJP had bagged as many as 27 per cent votes – the second highest- from the community.

In the post-poll data gathered by India Today in the 2017 assembly elections, around 80 per cent of Yadavs had voted for the SP.

However, in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, a total of 23 per cent of the community had voted for the BJP while the SP-BSP-led Mahagathbandhan bagged around 60 per cent Yadav votes, the CSDS post-poll study noted.

The 2022 assembly elections again saw the Yadavs rallying behind the SP and it bagged  83 per cent of the Yadav vote share, the CSDS survey had noted after the polls.

“One shouldn’t be surprised if the BJP is attempting to woo the community. There are enough indications that in Lok Sabha elections, the Yadav vote is tilted towards the BJP as compared to what we see in the assembly polls,” Sanjay Kumar, professor and co-director of Lokniti, a CSDS research programme, told ThePrint.

Calling 2022 polls an “outlier” when the highest polarisation of Yadavs and Muslims was witnessed in the history of UP, he said the Yadav community shows a clear tilt toward the BJP in the general elections even as the SP manages to get roughly 52-53 per cent of its votes in the Lok Sabha polls.

“In the past elections, it has been witnessed that the decline in the votes bagged by the SP in the Lok Sabha polls is approximately 18-19 per cent which is a clear indication of the community’s preference for PM Narendra Modi in Lok Sabha elections. Ahead of the 2024 general elections, the BJP has evidence to suggest that if they work a little harder, they can mobilise their votes slightly more,” he noted.

Mirza Asmer Beg, professor of political science at Aligarh Muslim University, said to ThePrint that in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, a sizeable number of Yadavs had voted for the BJP which had been riding on its Hindutva agenda.

“Except for in the last election, a significant number of the Yadav community has been voting for the BJP too since 2014. The BJP was pleasantly surprised with the result of that election and wanted to expand its footprint ever since, hoping to get the core voter of its rival too in its fold,” he said.

“The SP is a caste-based party and appeals to the Yadavs but the BJP’s majoritarian politics of Hindutva cuts through all castes. Another reason is that the BJP is ruling the state since 2017 and at the helm of the central government since 2014 and a winning party has a tide in its favour. There are always fence-sitters who make a great difference in the final arithmetic. The media glare and the resources with a ruling party also attract a section (of voters),” he added.

(Edited by Smriti Sinha)

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