NEW DELHI: Akhilesh Yadav, a young man who showed considerable promise before the last elections when he cycled his way through the state in a people to people campaign, has been constantly sniped at and ridiculed not by the opposition but by his own father Mulayam Singh Yadav. To a point where Akhilesh has lost his authority in government and the party, with power flowing back to the Samajwadi party supremo who continues to take all decisions along with his brothers.

It started soon after the elections when the credit for the Samajwadi party victory went largely to Akhilesh Yadav. A party that was sagging at the ends revived when the young man, with his infectious grin, came out of the iron gates of the bungalow where his father lived and moved into the masses on a bicycle. The formidable Samajwadi party organisation, of course at the command of Mulayam Singh, supported him and sensing new hope in the young man, the cynical voters decided to give the party another chance.

Akhilesh was expected to take over the reins of the party, with Mulayam Singh being mentioned at the time by most of his party leaders as the next Chief Minister. But he had clearly different ideas and insisted on the political greenhorn becoming the CM, while he remained party president. Sources had told this writer at the time that the son resisted this, but did not get his way as the father was adamant. It soon became clear why.

The fairly free run that Akhilesh had enjoyed in the campaign, was almost immediately restricted. Mulayam Singh and his brothers moved in to cut the young man’s feet from under him and as sources who had witnessed the transition said, he was unable to take a single decision. An attempt to do so would result in not just an angry Mulayam Singh but very often angry and visibly sulking uncles who pushed the Chief Minister to a point where he finally succumbed to the pressure, taking little to no action without consultations with them.

Most crippling was Mulayam Singh’s own attitude. One, the Chief Minister had no control over the bureaucracy, the appointments and posting remaining his father and uncles preserve. His suggestions were often overruled, and decisions countered. In fact Mulayam Singh reportedly countered the Chief Minister in the presence of the bureaucracy as well, with the result that the bureaucrats move on proposals after a green signal from the president of the party.

During the Muzaffarnagar violence in 2013-2014, several opposition leaders met Mulayam Singh and the Chief Minister with the plea for hard action. While Akhilesh Yadav promised to take immediate measures, his father spent the meetings complaining about him. He said that the CM was a novice, that he had no idea of how to run the government, that the bureaucrats were not listening to him, and that while he would try and intervene he could not guarantee adequate action. As a senior opposition leader said, “he was clear that his son was at fault.”

Sources said that this has been Mulayam Singh’s refrain all along, blame Akhilesh Yadav for all acts of omission and commission that go wrong.

The appointment of Amar Singh is a case in point. Akhilesh Yadav had differences with this businessman turned politician who had introduced his father to the world of glamour in Mumbai. Amar Singh had been instrumental in bringing the Bachchans together with the Yadav’s, and bringing Jaya Prada and Jaya Bachchan both into politics, the first through a direct Lok Sabha election. His was a phenomenal rise within the Samajwadi party, causing considerable angst amongst the old socialist leaders some of whom like Mohan Singh have since died. Singh had voiced his deep concerns about the authority that Amar Singh had come to wield in the party because of his proximity to Mulayam Singh to this writer at the time.

As if in recognition of Akhilesh Yadav’s resistance, Amar Singh recently told a news agency, that he was aware of his limitations and had no intention of overshadowing the chief minister with what he referred to as the “uncle syndrome”“Back in Samajwadi Party after six years, Amar Singh today said he knows his limitations and will in no way overshadow Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav with the "uncle syndrome".

"I am member of the undeclared 'Margdarshak Mandal' of the Samajwadi Party. It will be active or dormant depending on our new leader Akhilesh (Yadav). I have no reason to complain or sulk. I have played my innings. Now I will be cool, patient, dormant and non- competitive in my approach," he told PTI.

And went on to add, “in the past six years, pragmatic shift of power has taken place and is active. The next in command is Akhilesh Yadav. My love, affection is with him due to personal relations.”

Not many in the Samajwadi party believe him, least of all Azam Khan who has had a running feud with him. Amar Singh has never made any secret of his close affiliation to Mulayam Singh which now, after a gap of six years, he is now again reiterating. In fact local media reports spoke of a reception hosted by Amar Singh and Zee News chief Subhash Goyal in Delhi for Mulayam Singhs nephew that the chief minister allegedly did not want to attend.He has been openly opposed to Amar Singh becoming made the SP Rajya Sabha MP but then aware that he cannot influence his father, he takes recourse to expressing his disapproval through gestures such as the above.

Mulayam Singh, through what has been a quiet campaign against his son at every available opportunity, has kept tight control over the government and of course, the party. He remains the man in command, determining strategy and decisions. Akhilesh Yadav is unable to contradict his father and uncles in what is an essentially feudal household with insiders pointing out there is little he can do when confronted with the full force of the ‘family.’ There have been many differences over senior appointments in the bureaucracy, and more recently over the candidates fielded by the party for the Rajya Sabha. In the past Akhilesh has also had differences with Mulayam Singh’s Man Friday Azam Khan, who now has been eclipsed again by Amar Singh.

It remains to be seen who will run the election campaign. Mulayam Singh and the coterie has gathered around him, or Akhilesh Yadav who has lost the youthful enthusiasm during the long years in power. And with it perhaps a sizeable section of the core SP votes?