Two States, Two Political Dynasties: The Many Parallels Between Aparna and Sadhu Yadav

In the given situation, it won’t be surprising if Aparna Yadav meets the same fate in UP that Sadhu met in Bihar in the last 10 years.

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Patna: On August 16, 2013, Sadhu Yadav, brother of the former Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi and brother-in-law of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, had a 40-minute session over tea with then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi at the latter’s Gandhi Nagar residence.

At the time, Modi was bracing to become the next Prime Minister of India. He was reaching out to political leaders beyond Gujarat to expand his clout and bring his ‘Gujarat model’ of development to the national stage. With the tea session over, Sadhu – the former RJD MP from Bihar’s Gopalganj – had broken out in fulsome praise for Modi, saying, “Narendrabhai Modi has become popular and is talked about even in Bihar’s villages. His Gujarat model of development should be emulated and adopted by all the states.”

In many ways, Lalu is to Bihar what Mulayam Singh Yadav is to UP: both have family members in politics and both are known for their political “might” in their respective states; both represent the ‘social justice stream’ of politics; both are the symbols of opposition to the BJP and both are Yadavs, enjoying the support and goodwill of minorities.

There are striking similarities, too, between Western Bihar and Eastern UP, separated only by the river Karmanasa. These similarities exist in terms of demography, social setting and culture, which these two regional satraps (local rulers) have harnessed to benefit their politics over the decades.

But when Sadhu met Modi – who was getting ready to lead a party whose politics was antithetical to that of Lalu’s – he drew as much attention as Aparna Yadav – Mulayam Singh’s daughter-in-law who recently joined the BJP – is drawing right now, particularly from TV channels who favoured the BJP. Several BJP leaders were filled with glee over the fact that Modi, on his way to becoming Prime Minister, had managed to ‘break’ the family of the party’s mightiest foe in Bihar, as were the TV channels interviewing Sadhu, which were able to secure impressive TRPs.

Also read: If it’s ‘Aurangzeb vs Shivaji’ in UP, it’s ‘Ashoka vs Aurangzeb’ in Bihar

Incidentally, the RJD’s condition was even more pitiable than that of Samajwadi Party (SP) then. Sadhu had dealt a blow to the very raison d’etre of his brother-in-laws identity and politics by meeting with the leader of the RJD’s biggest rival. And this came at the worst possible time for Lalu and his party.

The Ranchi bench of a special CBI court had, for the first time, convicted Lalu in relation to a fodder scam case. He was thus stripped of his MP position (Lalu was the MP from Saran at the time), thrown behind bars and prohibited from contesting elections. The RJD suffered a heavy loss in the 2010 assembly polls thereafter, seeing their tally reduced to only 24 MLAs in the Bihar assembly. Devi, too, lost from the Sonepur and Raghopur seats.

A young Tejashwi Yadav gave up his cricket career to be with his mother and the party in Lalu’s absence. However, he was too young and inexperienced at the time to handle the tricks that the mighty BJP, under its emerging leader Modi, was playing to take over the Hindi heartland, Bihar included.

Sushil Kumar Modi’s role

At that time, Nitish Kumar had broken from the BJP, opposing Modi’s ascendance, but had not yet aligned with the RJD. A small section of Bihar BJP leaders who had facilitated Sadhu’s meeting with Modi had seen potential benefits in Devi’s brother meeting their prospective Prime Minister. But Sushil Kumar Modi – the most powerful BJP leader in Bihar at the time, who was more grounded than his compatriots – strongly opposed Sadhu’s entry into the party.

Sushil Kumar came out with a statement saying, “Sadhu is a symbol of the Lalu-Rabri era’s anarchy. Sadhu is unacceptable to the BJP.”

Sushil Kumar was knowledgeable and experienced in Bihar’s political realities and thus knew that Sadhu could not help the BJP break into Lalu’s vote base. Therefore, Sushil Kumar’s strong stance and Narendra Modi’s acceptance of the same saw Sadhu’s road into the BJP blocked.

Whether or not the BJP today has a Sushil Kumar-esque figure opposing Aparna’s entry into the party is not known. However, she shares several similarities with Sadhu.

Just as Sadhu had no distinct identity apart from being Devi’s brother and Lalu’s brother-in-law, Aparna has no identity beyond being the daughter-in-law of Mulayam Singh.

Moreover, just as Sadhu earned a fortune using his connections to Lalu and Devi, Aparna, her mother and her husband are said to have gotten extremely rich thanks to their relation to Mulayam Singh.

In the 2017 UP assembly elections, Aparna had unsuccessfully contested for the SP from the Lucknow Cantonment constituency. The BJP may give her a ticket from there once again, but whether or not she will be successful in retaining power for the BJP against her brother-in-law, Akhilesh Yadav, can only be found out on March 10.

Also read: BJP’s Attempt to Save Face By Inducting Mulayam’s Daughter-in-Law May Well Fall Short

Similarities between UP and Bihar’s political scenarios:

After leaving the RJD, Sadhu bounced around among many parties such as Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha and even the Congress. From 2014 onwards, he contested every election against the RJD and consistently issued damning statements against the family.

Most recently, he publicly attacked Tejashwi for marrying a woman named Rachel, – who changed her name Rajashree – claiming that it violated the “norms, custom and culture” of the community. And the same manner in which Akhilesh has extended his good wishes to Aparna, Tejashwi, too, had good words to say to his mama (maternal uncle) Sandhu.

“He (Sadhu) is an elder deserving our respect,” Tejashwi smilingly said, reacting to Sadhu’s barbs. But Sadhu has now been reduced to a persona non grata in the politics of Bihar.

Akhilesh, incidentally, is adopting a similar course to what Lalu adopted 2013 onwards. Nitish Kumar, who carries clout with the Lav-Kush (Kurmi-Koiri) caste combination, besides other non-Yadav OBC castes and Lalu – the undisputed leader of the Yadav-Muslim combination –  joined hands to trounce the BJP in the 2015 assembly elections. Those elections saw the emergence of Tejashwi as the deputy chief minister and since then, both her and his RJD have grown phenomenally. What’s more, this growth is despite Nitish going back to the BJP and Modi rising to power.

Akhilesh, too, has brought a plethora of non-Yadav OBC leaders – former ministers Swami Prasad Maurya, Dara Singh Chouhan, Om Prakash Rajbhar and Dharam Singh Saini among several other MLAs –  from the BJP’s camp to his. The political chessboard in the run up to the UP elections looks very similar to that of Bihar ahead of 2015.

In the given situation, it won’t be surprising if Aparna meets the same fate in UP that Sadhu Yadav met in Bihar in the last 10 years.

Nalin Verma is a senior journalist, author and professor of journalism and mass communication at Invertis University, Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh.