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MEHRU JAFFER | 26 SEPTEMBER, 2016

Mulayam Singh, the Storm in His Son's TeaCup


LUCKNOW: Who knows who will benefit most if the Yadav household collapses politically on the eve of the forthcoming state elections in Uttar Pradesh?

While an electoral prediction is difficult to make, the on going war within the very politically ambitious members of his family reveals that the future of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav is racing downhill for the moment.

This is a pity as only recently it had seemed that young Akhilesh had at last decided to step out of the shadow of his elders to take a few political decisions of his own. Akhilesh is the 43 year old son from the first wife of Mulayam Singh Yadav, founder and supremo of the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP). After the spectacular sweep of the polls in 2012, Akhilesh was made chief minister at the age of 38 years. He became the youngest chief minister ever in the state and leader of a state assembly with 404 seats out of which his party won 224 seats.

Over time Akhilesh has earned the reputation of being a hard working, well meaning and honest head of state.

“Lagta hai naujawan ab jawan ho gaya hai,” remarked a happy supporter of Akhilesh in Lucknow after the Chief Minister replaced Deepak Singhal with Rahul Prasad Bhatnagar as UP chief secretary recently.

Bureaucrat Bhatnagar has a squeaky clean image just like the Chief Minister in a state riddled with cases of corruption. Akhilesh got rid of Singhal despite his formidable reputation of over four years as the half, of the four and a half chief ministers who as the joke goes, jostle to rule the country's most populous state.

Singhal is close to Shivpal Yadav, the 61 year old PWD minister, younger brother of the 76 year old Mulayam Singh Yadav, and who is now sparring directly with his Chief Minister nephew.

Akhilesh Yadav is very popular in Lucknow but those who like him for his youthful, straightforward ways are also impatient over his utter deference for his macho father and many uncles. That is why when he transferred Singhal, opposed the merger of Qaumi Ekta Dal of underground don Mukhtar Ansari with the Samajwadi party as well as the return of flimflam politician Amar Singh back into the SP, his admirers were pleased.

However a show of independence on the part of Akhilesh is also the cause of the current rift between Akhilesh and uncle Shivpal Yadav.

This is the same chacha Shivpal who had walked Akhilesh to school and brought him up like his own son.

The seeds of rift between the two were sown after Akhilesh became Chief Minister in March 2012.

After all it is Shivpal who shoulder to shoulder with Mulayam Singh Yadav had built the SP from nothing in the 1980s. To this day Shivpal does not tire of saying that his nephew needs more experience as a politician. That Akhilesh Yadav still needs to grow up.

It is perhaps difficult for the older generation in the Samajwadi Party to accept that their children are already adults.

Akhilesh is a father of three children. After he returned home with a degree in environmental engineering from Australia's University of Sydney, he got married in 1999 and won a Lok Sabha seat in 2000. In the meanwhile the many children of his many uncles are also grown up. There are too many of them to name here and some of them already hold politically important posts.

Prateek, the younger step brother of Akhilesh has political ambitions. So does Aparna, the vivacious wife of Prateek. There is Sadhana, mother of Prateek who perhaps feels it is now the turn of her son to enjoy the throne of Uttar Pradesh instead of Akhilesh.

Considering that the Ramayana originated in Ayodhya in the vicinity of Lucknow and its continuing popularity, politicians of the day seem oblivious to the lessons to be learnt from the great epic.

When the SP returned to govern Uttar Pradesh after a thumping majority in 2012, Shivpal did not get to be Chief Minister. With the blessings of Mulayam Singh Yadav it was Akhilesh who became executive head and Shivpal was made organisational head of the SP. Ever since, Shivpal has been sulking.

Adding much fuel to Shivpal's fire of grouse is Amar Singh, the non- Yadav outsider who is happy to have access into the Yadav home once again and where he sits these days wiping tears of all those who cannot wait to see the political end of Akhilesh Yadav.

Amar Singh is responsible for introducing many Bollywood celebrities to the SP and was the face of glamour and corporate wealth of the party. He was expelled from the SP in 2010. Amar Singh, renowned for his manipulative political skills and facing multiple corruption charges continues to be kept at arm's length by the young Chief Minister who has never bothered to hide his reservations about his father’s best political friend. Also because the new generation within the SP is urbane, English speaking and celebrities in their own right, they don't need an Amar Singh to translate international matters and supposedly larger national issues to them.

After he was booted out of the SP, Amar Singh had reportedly spent the last six years knocking on the door of political leaders from different political parties but without success. Now Mulayam Singh Yadav has brought him back into the SP as general secretary, alienating his own son even further on the eve of the state elections to be held early next year.

“This could prove suicidal for the SP?” exclaims a political analyst in Lucknow.

Indeed why?

Why is papa Mulayam Singh Yadav doing this to his son and political heir Akhilesh who is the modern, educated and very liked face of the Samajwadi Party, is any one's guess.

Mulayam Singh Yadav is making it difficult for the Chief Minister to get on with business in the state in the name of brokering peace within the party but the perception today is that the septuagenarian politician himself is the cause of the storm that he is claiming to calm.

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