Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav's wish that his father Mulayam Singh be the prime minister of India with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi as his deputy as it was expressed at a talking shop on Friday has a tremendous potential to be ridiculed.
The ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) is facing a serious lack of credibility in UP at the moment while the Congress is going through its worst-ever phase in Indian politics.
The sum total of the number of MPs these two parties send to the Lok Sabha from UP, considered the most crucial political state in India, is at the moment seven out of 80! Mulayam as PM? Was Akhilesh joking?
Had it been some other field, one could still take it as a humour. But politics, especially when it is concerned with the dynastic variety, emotions always run high in this country.
The UP chief minister is perhaps disappointed for not being able to see his veteran politician father becoming the prime minister of the country even when somebody like Narendra Modi, much junior in national politics, grabbed the throne in the very first attempt. It certainly hurts.
But Akhilesh Yadav was overwhelmed by emotions more than the practicality at a leadership summit.
If he had stopped after expressing his or rather his father's desire to become the PM, it would still be considered a casual political statement. But the CM allowed the media enough food for thought when he added the ‘Rahul as deputy' part.
The statement gives birth to too many angles to the story.
One: SP eyeing alliance with Congress
First, the SP is eyeing an alliance with the Congress ahead of the next UP polls, which means the party is not in a confident state to take on opponent like Mayawati who is backing the NDA at times, keeping the BJP interested.
If indeed there is an alliance between Mayawati and BJP and with the Muslims not feeling confident about Mulayam as the messiah, the SP will have no other option but to look for a consolation from the Congress, even though the latter is in a rickety shape in the important state.
Akhilesh's damage control
Akhilesh's words also suggest that he is trying to control the damage that his unpredictable father did to the SP's prospects by pulling out of the Grand Alliance in Bihar ahead of the Assembly polls there in October and November.
The SP supremo was apparently not happy with the number of seats that the combine led by the RJD and JD(U) had offered and withdrew from it. The SP contested the polls with some other smaller parties but drew a blank.
It was a major blunder for had it drew a blunder as part of the Grand Alliance that eventually won the election, it still would have something to look forward to in the UP polls by roping in the Lalu-Nitish magic there.
But by putting the ego of the supremo above the realpolitik, the SP committed a political hara-kiri. Now, with Mulayam seriously losing his face among the anti-BJP forces that are aspiring more strongly to end Narendra Modi's run in 2019 by building on the Grand Alliance's victory in Bihar, the SP is in a serious danger of being isolated.
Akhilesh is hence trying for a backdoor entry through the Congress into the scheme of things.
2017 comes before 2019
But Akhilesh should keep in mind that his party would have to pass the 2017 test before the big fight of 2019. The SP has not done well in the last three Lok Sabha election and there will not be much hope if it fails to repeat something like 2012 in the next Assembly polls.
The ambition to see his father as the country's PM, even in alliance with the Congress, will remain a distant one in that case.
Two: Congress's support at Centre doesn't make a rosy picture
The second part of the story is allying with the Congress at the Centre. This is the same plan that regional parties have been aiming to execute at the national level since 1989 when the days of the Congress's last majority government got over.
The ‘communal' BJP has been the gluing factor but that couldn't be a strong adhesive to keep opportunist elements in coalition governments for long.
If Akhilesh is dreaming about a SP-led government at the Centre with backing from the Congress, he should recall the experience of Charan Singhs and Chandra Sekhars, who had become prime ministers with the Congress's support but found themselves to be hanging in the air in no time.
To expect Rahul Gandhi, the grandson of Indira Gandhi who dashed Charan Singh's hopes and son of Rajiv Gandhi, who ended Chandra Sekhar's run, play a nice second-fiddle role to Mulayam at the Centre is self-defeating.
The Congress, irrespective of its growing anachronism in Indian politics, still holds the arrogant edge of not playing a supporting role to any smaller party. Unless of course, there is some opportunity, as was sensed by Indira and Rajiv in the late 1970s and early 1990s.
Three: Friendship in politics?
The third angle of the story is about the friendship. It was asked at the leadership summit whether Akhilesh was ready to extend his "good" personal relation with Rahul Gandhi to a political level with the Congress at which the former made his ‘Mulayam as PM' statement.
The questions that arise here: Have Akhilesh and Rahul really grown such a close relationship in less than four years since the last UP polls? Are there any friends in politics?
It was the same Congress vice-president who had torn a piece of paper at a rally ahead of that election which many had called the SP's election manifesto and Akhilesh subsequently had taken a dig at him.
The SP leader had also mocked Rahul Gandhi's eating at Dalit houses and not to mention about his clashes between actor-turned-politician Raj Babbar over challenging Rahul Gandhi after a Lok Sabha by-election in 2009 in which his wife Dimple Yadav had lost. Babbar had said then that Akhilesh is to Rahul what he is to Marlon Brando.
From such a scenario, today Akhilesh is aspiring to see Rahul as the deputy prime minister of India? The project of achieving an anti-Modi and Mayawati bloc in UP has taken off. But neither Akhilesh is Nitish Kumar nor Rahul Gandhi is a Lalu Prasad to take the initiative forward.
Is Mulayam listening?