Three sons rise, take big bets on UP

Written by Nistula Hebbar | Nistula Hebbar | New Delhi/ Agra | Updated: Jan 19 2012, 07:13am hrs
At a crowded rally in Agras Khairagarh constituency, it is difficult to spot Jayant Chaudhary, Rashtriya Lok Dal MP and son of Union civil aviation minister Ajit Singh. Swamped by supporters, he reaches for the microphone and rather than chide the crowd, in an example of good old Jat humour, says, Lok Dal main thodi bahut kohni bhi chal jati hai. (In the Lok Dal, a little bit of pushing and shoving is allowed). The audience laughs, backs off and allows Chaudhary to finish his speech.

By evening, his father announces that Chaudhary will be contesting from the Math assembly constituency, signalling the latters intentions to get serious about Uttar Pradesh.

He is not the only young political inheritor who has pushed and shoved to the front in the UP elections. Like AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi who has bet his political capital on the polls, Akhilesh Yadav, son of Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav too has a lot at stake.

In what is being termed as UPs first post-Mandal-Mandir elections, with over 16 million new voters half of them 18-35 years old the generational change in these parties are clear but not the economic choices they offer to the new voters.

Yet, all three have the background to do so. Each one has spent a portion of his life away from their parents' sphere of influence Yadav at Mysore where he studied engineering, Chaudhary as a student of accounts and finance at the London School of Economics (LSE) and Gandhi who had a stint as student at the Cambridge in the UK.

The three have, of course, cleaned up the face their parties present to their voters. However, none of them get specific on the economics of their plans, if voted to power. All three talk of development as their main agenda, yet are careful to be anchored in their party's core strengths and support bases.

So, Chaudhary talks of pride and self respect which he says eroded under Mayawati's five-year rule. There has been a serious attempt to turn all land-owners (primarily Jats in Western Uttar Pradesh) in the Noida, Greater Noida area into a mass of landless people, he says. Needless to say, the real estate boom in the area (or colony kaatna, as referred to in his party) is not a desired developmental objective.

Yadav talks confidently of post-poll pairing with the Congress and a suitable payoff at the Centre. We have to look at the numbers after the polls to take a decision, he says. He is the face of the campaign with the statewide Kranti Yatra appealing to traditional vote banks among Yadavs and Muslims, but taking out full-page advertisements the day the Samajwadi Party relaunches its website.

As part of the clean-up, Gandhi has built his own team within the Congress, which, sometimes does not sit right with the bosses in the party, like the process of democratising the Youth Congress. Akhilesh Yadav took on senior party leaders in making sure tainted strongman DP Yadav was kept out of the party, while Chaudhary's growing clout in the party meant the exit of former RLD MP Anuradha Chaudhary, until recently the party's de facto No.2.

After March 6, while Chaudhary and Yadav will at best remain statewide phenomena albeit in India's most politically significant state for Rahul Gandhi, the challenge will be to emerge as the heir apparent for the Congress now led by mother Sonia Gandhi. Since results of the five state elections will be a pointer to these issues, development could remain on the back burner for now.