LUCKNOW: Scenes from a B grade Bollywood movie with abuse, tears, touching of feet, emotional outbursts, accusations, more abuse, name calling, and fisticuffs. These should have warmed the cockles of the hearts of the Yadav family, film buffs as most of them are, except that they were in the role of the main protagonists slugging it out to a point of no return.

In the process the Samajwadi party disintegrated right in front of its office bearers and supporters at a grand meeting convened by Mulayam Singh Yadav in Lucknow today. On the eve of elections, it split down the middle with the family feud bursting through the thin walls of the colonial residential bungalows on to the streets as the supporters of father Mulayam Singh and son Akhilesh Yadav beat each other up in what was the finale of long hours of acrimony.

Both father and son, egged on by others, are now facing each other in the akhara with both refusing to yeild. Mulayam Singh wanted his son to step aside and allow him to become the Chief Minister. An adamant Akhilesh Yadav refused. Both spoke emotionally, the CM almost burst into tears. At one point of the high voltage drama, he went to his father, touched his feet and asked him to bless him for his birthday (that was yesterday). Mulayam Singh then asked him to touch the feet of uncle Shivpal Yadav, one of the many thorns in the family pie.

Akhilesh Yadav complied, but then went to the mike and said that Amar Singh, with whom he has had a standing feud for years, had manipulated a local newspaper to describe him as “Aurangzeb.” Uncle Shivpal snatched the mike from the Chief Ministers hand---mind you the SP office bearers were all there watching---and called him a “liar.”

All hell broke loose, the Samajwadi office bearers and workers lost the tempers they had kept on leash for hours hoping for a reconciliation at the top, and began beating each other up. The CM left. Mulayam Singh had to be escorted out by his security, and the crowds dispersed only after not much was left to beat.

The meeting has left seniors in the party completely dismayed, as it is clear that the father and son are unlikely to mend relations even though elections are just months away. The distribution of tickets, the campaign has all been hit hard and as one leader said, “we have fallen to below 50 seats” in moments. There is no one left to play counselor, with one brother Shivpal supporting and egging on Mulayam Singh. And the other Ram Gopal Yadav, who is a Member of Parliament, and according to SP members is the political mentor behind Akhilesh Yadav. The return of Amar Singh has angered Ram Gopal, and while the former is keeping out of the public spotlights is said to be back as the right hand of Mulayam Singh.

Interestingly Mulayam Singh’s second wife Sadhana is also said to be rather active in the feud. Heer step son Akhilesh Yadav has been fairly vocal, locally, about being discriminated against during his growing years and at a meeting actually said that he had to find a name for himself, or words to that effect indicating that he was a neglected child. A few days ago a letter signed by a legislator but believed to have been drafted at a higher level appeared describing Sadhna Yadav in unsavoury terms. Irked by all this his father held a press conference explaining that his first wife had been ill since his son was a small child, and he had been brought up under the loving care of grandparents and later Uncle Shivpal himself. Sadhna Yadav, according to those who know her, wields some influence over her husband and has been involved in matters of governance and the party in the past as well.

The open battle now has crossed all lines, and even an attemped papering over, Samajwadi members agree, will be too thin and patchy to be sustained. The electoral scene, thus, has moved now to the Congress, Bahujan Samaj party and the Bharatiya Janata Party with Mayawati expected to gain from the fracas in immediate terms.

Mulayam Singh is going to be the long term loser in this face off, with the majority of legislators pinning hope on the younger and more popular Chief Minister. While he is seen as “arrogant” by some, he has managed to strike a rapport with the electorate being perceived as more honest, responsive, and innocent than his father. It is no secret in the party that the Samajwadi party victory in the last Assembly polls was largely because of Akhilesh Yadav. However, Mulayam Singh is a master strategist and while not as popular with the new voters is the man responsible for the party’s strong organisation. He is also a shrewd politician with an enviable knowledge of the ground. But then as a seemingly neutral Samajwadi party member said, “he has lost his touch”

The CM can afford to lose this election and wait for the next. For Mulayam Singh this was to have been his last encore.