NEW DELHI: 2019 Lok Sabha elections have thrown up two political heirs who will be keenly watched for their high chances of soon controlling their parties. Both happen to be nephews of single politicians who rose in politics through their own efforts — Mayawati of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Mamata Banerjee of Trinamool Congress (TMC). While Mamata’s 31-year-old nephew Abhishek Banerjee is already a Lok Sabha MP, Mayawati’s 24-year-old nephew Akash Anand has just made a debut in politics by attending election rallies.
Though Aakash, a management graduate from London and the son of Mayawati’s brother Anand Kumar, has been spotted with Mayawati at public functions and party meetings in the past few years, on Tuesday his anointment as Maywati’s political successor seemed complete when he sat in the chair reserved for her at a joint rally of the SP-BSP-RLD alliance in Agra. The BSP chief couldn’t attend the rally due the 48-hour ban imposed on her by the Election Commission. A bespectacled Akash, dressed in a casual white shirt and a blue pair of jeans, sat confidently with RLD chief Ajit Singh, BSP general secretary Satish Mishra and SP president Akhilesh Yadav.
Akash was spotted standing behind Mayawati when she met Akhilesh in Lucknow on her birthday on January 15 this year just when the two rival parties were coming together. He was also present on the dais at the joint SP-BSP-RLD rally in Deoband on April 7.
Akash was spotted the first time with Maywati at an event in Saharanpur in May 2017. Except some BSP functionaries, not many could identify him who walked behind Mayawati and quietly watched her interacting with people. He was introduced by Mayawati to party workers as a “young man who would work for the party”.
At that time, Akash also used to accompanying his ‘Bua’ during the BSP chief’s meetings with party workers. Akash also started interacting with key functionaries to understand the BSP’s strategy. Mayawati often asked Akash to remain present when she took feedback from party functionaries. She also made Akash’s father and her brother Anand Kumar the national vice-president of the party in 2017.
In October 2017, for the first time, names of Akash and his father appeared along with Mayawati’s in the party’s press release. Issued on the 11th death anniversary of BSP founder Kanshiram, the release had names of no other leader, and political experts said it was a sign of the two gaining prominence within the party’s structure.
In January this year, Maywati publically declared that Akash would join the BSP “movement”. Reacting to charges of nepotism for promoting Akash, she said if anyone had problems with that, so be it, and her party did not care.
According to experts, Akash could help Mayawati retain the support of Dalit youth, especially when Prime Minister Narendra Modi has started wooing this segment and various young Dalit leaders are emerging across the country.
Trinamool head and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee hit the national headlines recently when his wife reportedly disallowed customs officials to frisk her check-in baggage upon landing from abroad. Abhishek is a Lok Sabha MP from Diamond Harbour constituency and the national president of All India Trinamool Youth Congress, the youth wing of the All India Trinamool Congress.
With Mamata eyeing the prime minister’s post if she wins most of the Lok Sabha seats in the state, Abhishek is being seen as someone who will lead the party in the state in that situation. Seen as a dynamic leader with a mind of his own, Abhishek rose in the party in the last few years. Mamata is very affectionate towards him. When his daughter was born, Mamata exclaimed her mother (who had died a few days ago) had returned.
Bespectacled and generally in a neta’s traditional whites, Abhishek’s journey began early. At age 15, he was in business. As a student of Class IX, he got into event management. Those close to him say he remains passionate about organising. He went to Delhi for an MBA in marketing and in 2008 joined Bharat Forge. In 2009, he left his job to start Leaps and Bounds, a consultancy venture.
In 2011, after the ouster of the Left from power, Mamata made Abhishek the all-India president of Trinamool Yuva. That was different from the party’s youth wing — Trinamool Youth Congress — which was headed by Haldia strongman and MP Suvendu Adhikari. It was a parallel organisation set up to launch Abhishek’s political career. In 2015, Abhishek became the Trinamool Youth Congress chief and Yuva was subsequently dissolved.
In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Abhishek contested from Diamond Harbour constituency and won. Reacting to charges of nepotism, Mamata had said all young leaders must earn their posts, including Abhishek, and that’s why her nephew didn’t get the safer Kolkata South seat. “Had I wanted to send him to Parliament I could’ve taken the Rajya Sabha route. But that isn’t politics. It’s about being with people,” she said.
The digital wing of the TMC is known to be set up by Abhishek. Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the party set up a huge IT cell with a team comprising 40,000 members who operated from all the 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state with presence in every district, block and booth level.