By nominating Rashtriya Lok Dal president Jayant Chaudhury as the Samajwadi party and its alliance partner’s third candidate to the Rajya Sabha elections, SP president Akhilesh Yadav is attempting to reclaim the party’s pre-election stature which appears to have taken a beating.

The SP and its alliance partners the RLD and Om Prakash Rajbhar’s Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party together won 125 assembly seats in the Vidhan Sabha and can send 3 MPs to the Council of States.

Just days ago SBSP president Rajbhar had hit out at Akhilesh Yadav suggesting that he should step out of air conditioned rooms and go to the public. “Votes are in villages not in AC rooms and that’s why we need to go to the villages. I have told him four or five times to go among the people in the villages. Many Samajwadi leaders have asked to convey to their leader to step out of his house and go to the public,” he said at a party meeting.

Rajbhar insists that his SBSP will remain in the alliance to fight the 2024 polls together. He later played down his open criticism of the SP president asserting with a smile that if Akhilesh did not leave his AC room he would drag him out of it very soon.

The SP has also re-nominated Kapil Sibal, a sitting Rajya Sabha MP who won his seat in 2016 with the party’s support. The only difference this time is that Sibal chose the occasion of filing his Rajya Sabha nomination paper in Lucknow to announce his exit from the Congress. A pillar of the G23, Sibal made it abundantly clear that he was an independent candidate whose mission was to unite the Opposition ahead of the 2024 general election.

However, a section of Samajwadis believe that the decision to renominate Sibal despite his departure from the Congress may have been taken to placate estranged senior leader Mohammad Azam Khan, who was released from prison after 27 long months, on interim bail granted by the Supreme Court for which his case was argued by none other than Sibal.

Since his release from Sitapur jail last week, Azam Khan has made no bones about being upset with both SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and president Akhilesh Yadav. He was imprisoned after 84 cases were lodged against him in quick succession after Yogi Adityanath assumed office in 2017.

To questions by the media whether Mulayam had phoned him after his release, Khan in his distinctive style said, “I am a small fry. I am grateful if anyone comes to me. Why should big leaders meet me? Maybe he doesn’t even have my number.”

A founding member of the Samajwadi party and a 10-time MLA from Rampur Sadar, Azam Khan was in Lucknow to take oath as an MLA in the Speaker’s chamber. He has so far not participated in the ongoing budget session where a seat has been reserved for him next to leader of opposition Akhilesh Yadav.

Strangely, Akhilesh hasn’t taken the trouble to reach out to such a senior leader as Azam Khan. His estranged chacha (uncle) however, Shivpal Singh Yadav was present to welcome Khan at the gate of Sitapur jail upon his release on May 20.

Since then Shivpal has visited Azam Khan at his residence on several occasions holding discussions behind closed doors.

The uneasy truce between Akhilesh Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav’s younger brother came to a sudden end days after the assembly result was declared, and the chacha was not invited to a meeting of the SP’s newly elected MLAs chaired by Akhilesh Yadav on May 26.

Shivpal had founded a separate political party, the Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party, soon after his relationship with his nephew turned sour in 2016. Nevertheless he won the recently concluded polls from Jaswantnagar on a Samajwadi symbol. Yet he was uninvited to the meeting of newly elected MLAs, starting a fresh drift within the family and damaging the party as well.

“I was not invited to the party meeting. I waited two days and cancelled all my appointments for the meeting but I wasn’t invited. Am I not an MLA from the Samajwadi party?” Shivpal retorted.

Since then Shivpal has been sulking and has missed no occasion to hit out at Akhilesh Yadav for not respecting elders and those who gave their best years to the Samajwadi Party. When Akhilesh Yadav did not turn up at Sitapur jail for Azam Khan’s release, Shivpal again reiterated that Akhilesh did not know how to show respect to those who deserved it.

Akhilesh Yadav did however meet Azam Khan’s son and MLA Abdullah Azam at the SP office in the Vidhan Sabha, where Sibal’s candidature and names for the Samajwadi candidate for the Rampur Lok Sabha bypoll were reportedly discussed.

Speaking to journalists at his residence on May 24 the day before Sibal filed his papers, Azam Khan said, “It is Kapil Sibal’s right to be nominated to the Rajya Sabha and it would be an honour for any political party to do so… Sibal is such a senior personality, he is a very big person and very nice. I’ll be the happiest if he is nominated”.

While Sibal’s nomination may have made Azam Khan a bit happy, it remains to be seen if the selection of the SP’s candidate for the Rampur by poll, considered Azam’s pocket borough, is made with his consent.

Akhilesh Yadav’s wife, Dimple Yadav, is expected to contest from the Azamgarh Lok Sabha seat vacated by husband Akhilesh Yadav after he decided to focus on UP and retain his assembly seat and become the Leader of the Opposition.

After weeks of inertia in the Samajwadi camp there appears to be some activity but it is still largely inside AC rooms, much to the chagrin of alliance partner SBSP President Om Prakash Rajbhar.