SP mouthpiece has a message in English. Focus on non-Hindi states & breaking from Mulayam’s mould

SP mouthpiece has a message in English. Focus on non-Hindi states & breaking from Mulayam’s mould

Apart from the party’s growing ambitions under the foreign educated Akhilesh Yadav, it also marks a generational change for the party founded by socialist leader Mulayam Singh Yaday in October 1992. Mulayam, in the 1990s, had launched a tirade against the use of English as a medium in education as well as protested against the introduction of computers.

While Akhilesh still restricts himself to Hindi when it comes to connecting with the masses much like his father who was known as son of the soil, the SP chief — who holds a Master’s degree in environmental engineering from University of Sydney — seems to have taken the plunge for reaching out to non-Hindi speakers and, more importantly, young voters.

The June edition of the party’s monthly magazine features a picture of Akhilesh holding a cycle titled ‘Chaa gaye Akhilesh (It’s Akhilesh all over)’, with a message encapsulating his vision behind fielding a significant number of young candidates.

The message appears after detailed profile pieces on Iqra (Kairana), Priya (Machhlishahr) and Pushpendra (Kaushambi). Elected to Parliament at the age of 25 years, three months and three days, Pushpendra has broken the record of ex-Keonjhar MP Chandrani Murmu to become the youngest MP in the country.

“The party president, Shri Akhilesh Yadav said that he decided in favour of Iqra, Priya and Pushpendra because they are young and they will be able to better understand the new challenges that exist in modern society,” the bulletin reads.

“Iqra is from a political family, she is well-educated, young, people know her, she knows how to speak, give a speech,” it quotes Akhilesh as saying.

The piece recalls Akhilesh meeting Pushpendra and his father, Indrajit Saroj. “Pushpendra’s age was becoming an issue and for this reason his father was a bit hesitant. However, the president told Mr Indrajit, “aap ladaiye apne ladke ko (you make your son fight)”, and to Pushpendra, “lado kuch nahin hota (fight, there wouldn’t be any harm)”. He won by more than one lakh votes!,” it notes.

He further rejects the accusations of nepotism given that all the three MPs come from political families. “These elections were very crucial and if a family member wants to come into politics, and because it is amongst the people that they are going to struggle, they are going to prove themselves, so I gave them the opportunity to do so. And the people have clearly accepted them,” the bulletin notes.

SP chief spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary admitted that it was indeed for the first time that a message appeared in the Samajwadi Bulletin in English and that too from its national leadership.

“Samajwadi Party’s thoughts are national and now, messages will appear in the Samajwadi Bulletin in English, too. Akhilesh ji was the first leader in the country to distribute laptops for free. The party has always encouraged Indian languages, but even Chaudhary Charan Singh ji wrote over a dozen books in English, which were later translated into Hindi,” he said.

“The SP has always given priority to Hindi and Indian languages. But in the new system, English too will be used wherever needed. Keeping in view the new generation and technology, where people mostly use English, the party wants to ensure that our policies reach them too as well those adopting the new system. Our basic character remains the same, that Hindi and Indian languages be prioritised.”

Ex-MP Rewati Raman Singh, a founding member of the party, said that the SP is an all-India level party and embracing English in the party bulletin was a step forward towards the goal.

“These days all work is happening in English and the youth especially are more comfortable in the language. Akhilesh Yadav is a national leader, and it is natural that he will connect with the national audience,” he told ThePrint.

Also Read: How Akhilesh Yadav trumped Modi-Yogi in Uttar Pradesh — ‘sway of caste over communal politics’

Pan-India approach, outreach to non-Hindi speakers

Former Delhi University professor Lakshman Yadav told ThePrint that with the SP having emerged as the largest regional party, it is trying to adopt a pan-India approach-reaching out to even the non-Hindi speaking states without any language barrier.

“When Mulayam Singh ji opposed English, it was a movement to prioritise Hindi and other Indian languages in an era when English was a barrier in the path of the masses who could not communicate in the language.The essence was to ensure that inability to communicate in English doesn’t stop the masses from getting education. Akhilesh is reaching out to the society in 21st century India with youth and development-centric policies; so, he is adopting a different approach where language is not a barrier,” he said.

Yadav added that with the SP having MPs like Lalji Verma, Ram Prasad Chaudhary and Awadhesh Prasad, who are in their 60s and 70s, and youngsters like Pushpendra, Iqra and Priya in its fold, it is striking a balance between the young and the experienced leaders.

He noted that the opposition to English in the SP’s early days stemmed from the Lohiaite anti-English stance.

“During Lohia ji’s time, slogans like angrezi me kaam na hoga (work won’t happen in English), angrez yahan se chala gya, angrezi ko bhi jana hoga (English have left, English language will also have to leave). That stemmed out of a feeling that the English language was a cultural imposition on Indians and because of that time, it was seen as a barrier in the path of the masses to attain education. That was different politics but today, English is a global language and is spoken in non-Hindi speaking states as well. So, it is an attempt to spread the party’s message among them too,” he said.  

The changing times

Considered a leader of the masses, the popularity of ‘dhartiputra’ (son of the soil) Mulayam Singh Yadav largely hinged on his work for peasants, backwards and the anti-English tirade which propelled him as a grassroot leader.

While he termed the English language as the biggest curse on the country in January 1990, Mulayam had remarked that boys from rural background “are less corrupt than those who study in English medium public schools”.

Mulayam had appealed to the Urdu speakers claiming that English is the biggest hurdle in the progress of their language and that they would automatically prosper if English was removed.

In March 1990, the then UP CM Mulayam declared at an event in Lucknow that he would burn the English language altogether if he had his way. This was followed by his government issuing a ban on the use of English in official work something that is followed till date.

Mulayam’s anti-English tirade provoked protests when he said that his government was seriously considering closing down 1,500 English medium public schools and missionary schools in UP to end the dual education standards. 

While all these incidents happened in the run-up to the formation of the SP, Mulayam’s ascent to national politics saw little change in his stance. In 1997, as the defence minister, he declared that his party won’t rest “till English is driven out of the country.”

In 2009, the SP vowed to abolish schools providing expensive education in English. Four years on, Mulayam demanded that the MPs be banned from speaking in English in Parliament and even goaded fellow MPs from Tamil Nadu to speak in their mother tongue.

But, the rise of Akhilesh changed the party stance as he worked hard to shed his party’s anti-English image. In the run-up to the 2012 UP polls, the SP promised to provide a free tablet to every student passing Class X and a laptop to students passing Class XII from government schools.

Sensing the churning on the ground, the Akhilesh Yadav-led UP government decided to identify two state government schools in every district for imparting English medium education.

That the SP was witnessing winds of change was clear when just ahead of the 2017 polls, the SP government announced in April that English will be taught as a compulsory subject from Class I in government schools a clear break from Mulayam’s anti-English stand.

(Edited by Tony Rai)

Also Read: Did BSP dent SP-Congress LS prospects in multiple seats? Here’s what seat-wise analysis shows


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