Five months ago, even before Akhilesh Yadav entered into a battle with his father and uncle to take reins of his party, he had stirred a political speculation saying “Rahulji bahut acche insan hain, bahut acche ladke hain. UP me jyada rahenge to hamari bhi dosti unse hogi…”
Rahul Gandhi was then on a vast 2500-kilometer ‘Kisaan Mahayatra’ in Uttar Pradesh, where his locus of attack was not the state government led by Akhilesh Yadav but Prime Minister Modi.
Seldom had the Congress vice president made any antagonistic remark on the Samajwadi Party during his campaign trail, and neither did Akhilesh Yadav on the Congress.
“…do acche log mil jaye to kya kharab baat hai?…” was Akhilesh Yadav’s next remark on that September afternoon. Five months later the two leaders are in alliance, together, toppling the odds and differences arsing out of party and its patriarchs.
In what could be an optic that may define not just the election in India’s most populous state but also at national level in days to come, both the leaders, in their 40s, will be holding a joint press conference on Sunday.
While the differences still persist, reportedly over the seat-sharing ratio on the Congress bastions of Amethi and Rae Bareli, the two parties have decided to come together to take on the might of BJP, which is ruling centre and Prime Minister Modi still its chief campaigner, and Mayawati-led poll-ready BSP.
Though the words are measured on the campaign strategy, there are whispers that Rahul’s sister Priyanka Gandhi and Akhilesh’s wife Dimple Yadav may too join the public spheres to canvass for the alliance, billed as ‘secular’ fortification.
Rahul-Akhilesh duo were also tipped to jointly announce the alliance, which was stitched after hiccups and near-total collapse last week, but those honours went to Congress state unit chief Raj Babbar and Smajawadi Party’s senior leader Naresh Uttam.
That, however, may become past come Sunday when the two quadragenerian will share the dais in Lucknow.
Prior to their alliance, the two parties had shared a tricky history with SP often accusing Congress of arm-twisting them in latter’s ruling years at the Centre.
Adding to that, it was Samajwadi Party which came to the Congress-led UPA government’s rescue in August 2008 when the Left Front decided to snap its ties owing to ideological differences with Manmohan Singh government sealing Indo-US nuclear deal.
As Congress chose not to succumb to dictates of the influential alliance partner, there was renewed bonhomie with Samajwadi Party. But that too was short-lived as UP faced assembly polls in 2012. Congress took on both BSP, then ruling the state government, and the prime challenger SP in 2012 UP assembly polls.
Even then, Rahul Gandhi had led the Congress’ campaign, which was deeply unsuccessful, asking voters to look beyond the regional players – BSP and SP.
2012 assembly polls marked the beginning of Akhilesh Yadav’s emergence in the state, while dismal performance of just making through 28 seats out of 403 raised questions on Rahul Gandhi’s mettle as a politician.
Five years later, as the things stack up now… Akhilesh’s premonition on “friendship” with Rahul has morphed into a reality, facing a stiff test beginning February 11.