Madhusudan Yadav is the mayor of a town with a population of 163,114, as per the 2011 census. His is not a name that will register with most readers. When you hear Rajnandgoan, the name that comes to mind is Raman Singh. Or the sitting Member of Parliament Abhishek Singh, who is the son of Raman Singh.
But if you want to understand how party politics and dynastic politics work in India, or for that matter, how the Congressification has happened to a cadre-based party, or how parivarvad triumphs karyakartavad, you need to look no further than Yadav’s career.
Born in Rajnandgaon, Yadav came to BJP as a young worker and made his way into the corridors of governance by becoming a councilor in 1994, three years after joining active politics. In 2009, Yadav was asked to contest the Rajnandgaon Lok Sabha seat, a seat then held by the Congress, which comprises the town and contiguous areas. He won with a margin of 119,074 votes. But come next elections in 2014 when the Modi wave was sweeping across the country including Chhattisgarh, he was denied the seat. It went to Abhishek Singh, the son of Raman Singh, who was all of 33 years old. While Yadav, who had spent 25 years as a BJP worker, was relegated to city politics retaining but an email id, email@example.com, recalling his years in the Lok Sabha.
In early 2015 he was asked to contest the mayoral elections. Chhattisgarh is one of the six states in the country that elects the mayors directly. In a setback to the BJP in the Rajnandgaon area, the party lost four of the six local body elections in the Rajnandgaon area. But Yadav won and that too with a margin of over 35,000 votes. Locals assert with great pride that his victory margin in the city was more than the margin of either Raman Singh in the assembly elections or Abhishek Singh in the Lok Sabha constituency from the city.
In this election he has been sent to the neighbouring constituency of Dongargaon, which has a popular MLA in Daleshwar Sahu who has been re-nominated by the Congress. The usual explanation on the streets of both Rajnandgaon and Dongargaon is that with this nomination the CM has eased Yadav out of Rajnandgaon and ensured his son’s place in local politics whether Yadav loses or wins Dongargaon. If Yadav loses in Dongargaon, his political capital declines, and if he wins, then Yadav is eased out of his home turf of Rajnandgaon.
Such is Yadav’s popularity in Nangaon, as Rajnandgaon is called by the locals, that people say that as an independent he can defeat Raman Singh from the town. They say that from the time he gets up to the time he ends his working day, Madhu Bhaiyya, as he is called, is there to help the people. But this senior high school graduate has confided that the party, the BJP, has given him so much that he cannot think of not doing the party’s bidding.
And Yadav’s political hopes lie in two data points other than his. When he won the 2009 elections, he led from Dongargaon by more than 18000 votes. And when the well-liked Daleshwar Sahu of the Congress won the last elections, he just pipped the post with a shade under 1700 votes.
The point is not whether he wins or loses. The point is not even about a cadre-based party deciding where a member should go or not. From Jyoti Basu to Somnath Chatterjee and Jaswant Singh to L K Advani, the party determines or perhaps overdetermines. The moot point is how a 33-old son of a chief minister is given preference over a popular local leader to contest a seat at a time when winning is almost certain. The moot point is also how a devoted karyakarta is relegated from being an MP to a mayor. For some party members in the region at least, the moot point is how a karyakarta is treated by a parivar. Or is this just unneeded cavil when all that the karyakarta may have been doing in 2009 was to keep Rajanandgaon warm for the putra-abhishek? Either way Yadav stands as exhibit number 1 for BJP’s increasing parivarvad.