Infighting in Apna parivar

Anupriya’s mother and party president, Krishna Patel, contested the Rohania assembly by-elections but was swept away by the SP wave. Thus began the family feud, leading to the appointment of Pallavi Patel as the national vice-president

Uttar Pradesh decides which direction the nation’s politics takes. And in that state, today, it is not big parties such as the SP, the BSP, the BJP and Congress that are being talked about, but Apna Dal. It is in the news, though, for all the wrong reasons – family squabbles – and its very existence has come under threat.
The national president of the party Krishna Patel has removed Anupriya Patel, MP from Mirzapur, from the post of national general secretary of the party – this even when it is primarily because of Anupriya that the party has got some recognition.

Elaborating on the reasons for sacking Anupriya, the party chief said in a terse statement: “Anupriya Patel is my daughter but she is being misled by some people close to her. Those who patronized her, those who made her MLA and MP – she is now opposing the very same people. This is not correct. She has been removed from the party post because of indiscipline and for conduct unbecoming of the dignity of her office.” Krishna said that Anupriya had announced her removal despite not having the power to do so according to the constitution of the party. She also alleged that her son-in-law Ashish Kumar (Anupriya’s husband) wanted to contest by-elections from Rohania and that there was pressure to field him. But because the persistent demands of the workers, she said, she herself contested, but lost due to sabotage by Anupriya and her husband. She added that Anupriya held an “unconstitutional” meeting on 20 October and appropriated the powers of the president. Krishna claimed that the records kept in the central office of the party were also tampered with and some papers had gone missing. Anupriya had turned “dictatorial”, Krishna said, ever since she was elected to the Lok Sabha.

On the other hand, Anupriya said that the national president wanted to run the party according to her whims and fancies. She said that she could not be a mute witness to the trampling of the party constitution. She also said that the members of her family and some party leaders were trying to “throw cold water on my hard work of five years and want to break the party’s alliance with the BJP to serve their own interests. I will not allow this conspiracy to succeed at any cost.”

Political family feuds

The family feud in Apna Dal came out in the open after the appointment of Pallavi Patel, elder sister of Anupriya, as national vice-president. The appointment was made by Krishna, their mother. Pallavi, who has never been in active politics, wants her two other sisters – Parul and Aman – in politics. Anupriya did not approve of Pallavi’s appointment and publicly protested, and that was why she was sacked.

Like Apna Dal, many political parties in the country have witnessed internecine quarrels due to some member of the family being the blue-eyed boy of the party chief. In 1980, after the death of Sanjay Gandhi in a plane crash, his wife Maneka had started living in the prime minister’s residence with Indira Gandhi. But one morning, in 1982, Maneka found her possessions dumped on the lawns of the residence, leading to her unceremonious exit from the Gandhi family. After her expulsion from the party, Maneka turned rabidly anti-Indira and floated her own outfit. Then, after Indira’s assasination, she continued to oppose Rajiv Gandhi, who inherited his mother’s political legacy. This bitterness continues in the next generation too, as was evident from the critical comment of Priyanka Gandhi about Maneka’s son, Varun. This situation arose in the Congress owing to Indira Gandhi’s weakness for Sonia. A similar weakness led to the conflict in the first family of the DMK. Party chief M. Karunanidhi, showing his preference for his younger son M.K. Stalin, terminated the primary membership of former union minister and his elder son M.K. Alagiri. Similar circumstances forced Raj Thackeray to break ties with the Shiv Sena and form his own party. For the same reason, NCP’s Sharad and Ajit Pawar are not on good terms.

Bahujan perspective

Though internecine battles are common in Indian politics, the ongoing tussle in Apna Dal is a tragic development from Bahujan perspective Though internecine battles are common in Indian politics, the ongoing tussle in Apna Dal is a tragic development from the Bahujan perspective, for after the decline of the heroes and heroines of the social-justice movement in the Hindi belt, Apna Dal had emerged as a new symbol of the hopes and aspirations of the Bahujans – and Anupriya Patel’s contribution to this development has been extraordinary. In 2013, when the students of reserved and general categories came face to face following the three-stage reservation announced by the UP Public Service Commission, Anupriya openly sided with the pro-reservationists and went to jail more than once. That established her as a heroine of social justice. Gradually, she built for herself the image of the most vocal leader on issues of social justice in the Hindi belt. As a member of the Lok Sabha, Anupriya boldly supported the plea for a quota within quota in the reservation for women in legislative bodies. As an MP, she has been consistently participating in debates concerning almost every issue related to social justice. She is one of the few leaders for social justice who can both lead her party on the streets and address an assembly of intellectuals with felicity. She has excellent command over both English and Hindi. As for her organizational skills, the rising graph of Apna Dal is proof enough.

The Apna Dal was established by Sonelal Patel, a close associate of Kanshiram and one of founder members of the Bahujan Samaj Party, on 4 November 1995 after he fell out with Mayawati over a range of serious issues. Almost four years after the establishment of the party, on 4 August 1999, Sonelal addressed a public meeting in Varanasi that was attended by more than a lakh people. But the party could never achieve any major success. The first electoral breakthrough of Apna Dal was in 2002 when their candidate, strongman Atiq Ahmed, entered the Uttar Pradesh Assembly. But the tally of Apna Dal in the 2007 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections and 2009 general elections was zero. After the death of Sonelal in a road accident in October 2009, Anupriya took upon herself the responsibility of taking the party ahead. Since then, the party has seen better days.

In the 2012 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, Anupriya contested from Rohania after forging an alliance with small political outfits such as the Peace Party and won. After her entry into the assembly, Apna Dal’s fortunes began to rise. In the general elections earlier this year, the party struck a deal with the BJP and was allotted Mirzapur and Pratapgarh Lok Sabha constituencies. It not only won both the seats but also emerged victorious in the assembly by-election in Vishwanathganj.

These electoral successes enhanced Anupriya’s stature as a leader of the social-justice brigade. During the campaigns for the Lok Sabha elections, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah projected her as the OBC face of the NDA. As a result, barring Azamgarh, BJP swept eastern Uttar Pradesh – a region where older leaders such as Vinay Katiyar and Om Prakash Singh had failed to make headway. After the general elections, many were convinced that Anupriya had it in her to be the chief minister.

Her mother and party president, Krishna Patel, contested the Rohania assembly by-elections but was swept away by the SP wave. Thus began the family feud, leading to the appointment of Pallavi Patel as the national vice-president.

Now, Anupriya has two options. The first is to continue working as a disciplined worker of the party under the leadership of the party president and vice-president. Or, second, to quit the party and form Apna Dal (A) to continue her political journey. Today, Apna Dal’s image is of a private limited company, whose chief is busy installing her inexperienced children in all the top positions. This has severely dented the image of the party. Against this backdrop, it would be better for Anupriya to take the risk – just like Maneka Gandhi did – and tread an independent path.

Published in the December 2014 issue of the Forward Press magazine


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