LUCKNOW: For the first time in decades, Samajwadi party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav will be contesting the Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat without the able assistance of his younger brother Shivpal Singh Yadav.

Although the 80 year old founder of the party, and once a fiery leader, arrived to file his nomination papers in a special rath along with son Akhilesh Yadav, those who knew him well could detect a loneliness. Confirmed by his decision not to address an election rally, as was his norm, after filing the nomination papers.

Shivpal Yadav has served as Mulayam Singh Yadav’s poll manager in eight assembly elections and five parliamentary elections that he successfully contested in his career.

The strife between Mulayam Singh’s son Akhilesh Yadav and younger brother Shivpal Yadav that began in 2016 finally led to a split in the Samajwadi Party, late last year.

Shivpal Yadav has formed his own Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party and had even urged his elder brother to contest on his ticket. Mulayam Singh after vacillating between the two in the intervening years, finally chose his son over his brother.

However, despite the rift Shivpal Yadav did visit his elder brother to convey his good wishes on the occasion.

Mulayam Singh did not attend the customary election meeting held after filing of nomination papers and Akhilesh Yadav alone addressed the meeting.

A family member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said “It is a sad moment for us. Netaji (Mulayam) went with Akhilesh to file his nomination papers but he seemed lonely. Shivpal has always been by his side on such occasions and even managed his elections. Netaji never bothered about the polls because he knew that it was in the safe hands of Shivpal. We do not know what will happen this time.”

Samajwadi sources said that in view of the challenges being posed by the BJP, Akhilesh Yadav would be spending more time in Azamgarh where he is pitted against Bhojpuri star Dinesh Yadav Nirahua and his wife Dimple Yadav would be busy in her own constituency Kannauj.

“Other family member like Dharmendra Yadav, Akshay Yadav ( son of Prof Ram Gopal Yadav) and Tej Pratap Yadav will also be confined to their respective constituencies and may not find time to stay in Mainpuri but party workers will be there to campaign for Netaji,” a Samajwadi party leader said.

Incidentally,Shivpal Yadav is contesting against his nephew Akshay Yadav from Firozabad and majority of the members of the Yadav clan will be camping there to ensure that the young MP does not lose his seat to his estranged uncle. In fact the larger part of the family has opted for Akhilesh Yadav in this feud.

An exception is Mulayam Singh Yadav’s younger daughter-in-law Aparna Yadav who has thrown her weight being uncle Shivpal Yadav. She has moved away from the Akhilesh Yadav camp, although she contested and lost the Assembly elections from the SP ticket.

Mulayam Singh has aged dramatically, and remains indoors. The decline from the last Lok Sabha polls in 2014 has been visible, with the control of the party having passed entirely to Akhilesh Yadav. He is popular, remained polite and respectful to his father and uncle even at the worst of times, and has forged ahead as a result with the support of the other uncle Ram Gopal Yadav, who was once very close to the party patriarch. Ram Gopal Yadav has been steadfast in his support for Akhilesh Yadav, and remains a mentor and advisor to the young leader.

Azamgarh remains an important choice for Akhilesh Yadav, as it was earlier his father’s bastion. His presence is expected to consolidate the Yadav, Dalit, Muslim vote in not just the constituency but across the Purvanchal region where the Samajwadi party is counting heavily on these groups. In Azamgarh Lok Sabha itself. In Azamgarh’s electoral history the BJP won here only in 2009, with the Lok Sabha being held by stalwarts from the opposition at different points including Chandrajit Yadav who represented this Lok Sabha seat four times, Mohsina Kidwai, Akbar Ahmad, with the sitting MP now Mulayam Singh Yadav.

In 2014, Mulayam Singh had secured 35.43 per cent of the vote share followed by the BJP with 28.85% and BSP with 27.75%. This time around Akhilesh Yadav is the joint candidate of both the BSP and of course the SP that gives him a lead already if the combined votes are taken into account. Interestingly, the Congress candidate Arvind Kumar Jaiswal had secured less than two per cent of the votes from this constituency.