Just one phone call from Dimple Yadav has made all the difference. While the glacier of misunderstanding between Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav and veteran SP leader Shivpal Yadav refused to melt, Dimple Yadav has stepped in like a balmy breeze, to prevent the cold war between husband Akhilesh and uncle Shivpal from escalating. The differences between Akhilesh and Shivpal threaten the unity of not only the large Yadav family but also the SP.

For the moment Dimple has achieved what Akhilesh could not get himself to do. Last Wednesday, she decided to pick up the phone and to call Shivpal requesting him to support her in Mainpuri. Shivpal has already given his blessings to Dimple.

Dimple is SP's nominee to contest the Mainpuri Lok Sabha by-polls to be held on December 5. Today the SP needs all the help it can garner from every political corner to win Mainpuri, which has been a stronghold of the SP since 1996.

In recent times, the SP has been losing the love that voters had displayed for the party in the past. The party faced defeat early this year in Azamgarh and Rampur constituencies to the BJP in by-polls.

Voters were upset that Akhilesh did not travel to either of the constituencies to meet them and to tell them why they should vote for the SP. The SP also lost the Gola Gorakhnath by-polls recently and where Akhilesh did not campaign.

Together with political lethargy and the on-going rift within the family of the late Mulayam Singh Yadav the unity of the SP is in danger of falling apart.

Shivpal is a younger brother of the late Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Along with other socialists, the brothers had founded the SP in 1992, a few months before the demolition of the Babri Masjid in neighbouring Ayodhya. The incident had shaken the political foundations of Uttar Pradesh, and communal riots had threatened to set the state on fire.

It is difficult for the peace loving population of the state to forget the crucial role that the SP had played in preventing violence in UP at that time. However, today is a different story.

All has not been well in the Yadav household for over a decade especially after Mulayam Singh chose son Akhilesh as his successor in 2016. It was Shivpal who was expecting to take over the leadership of the party from brother Mulayam Singh.

Shivpal was Akhilesh's favourite uncle, in his childhood. Today, Akhilesh is distrustful of Shivpal. The suspicion that Shivpal enjoys playing footsie with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) makes Akhilesh cringe.

Akhilesh loves Shivpal, but he finds it difficult to respect the politics practiced by his uncle. That lack of trust between the two could easily wipe out all the goodwill that the SP had managed to earn under the leadership of Mulayam Singh.

All Eyes on By-Polls

Uttar Pradesh is in the grip of election fever. Three seats are being contested in the state and polling takes place in all the three constituencies on December 5. The results will be announced on December 8.

The hottest contest is perhaps for the Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat. The election is being held after the death of SP supremo Mulayam Singh. SP's Dimple Yadav will contest a former SP legislature Raghuraj Shakya who is the BJP contestant in Mainpuri.

Raghuraj is close to Shivpal but he left the SP in 2017 to join the BJP. After the BJP announced Raghuraj as its candidate, the SP named Shivpal its star campaigner. Akhilesh's name tops the list of about 40 SP star campaigners including Shivpal, Azam Khan, Jaya Bachchan and Ram Gopal Yadav amongst others. Shivpal had canvassed for the SP in the 2022 state elections but he was not named a star campaigner.

Shivpal has approved Dimple's candidature in Mainpuri and is also listed as a star campaigner. Will he still support daughter in law Dimple, or sneak over to ask for votes for old friend Raghuraj of the BJP?

Importance of Being a Shakya

Knowing the games that politics in the region demands, the SP recently appointed former UP minister Alok Shakya as its district president. Alok's job is to prepare the party for the Lok Sabha elections to be held in 2024.

It is hoped that Alok's high profile appointment will favour the by-polls in Mainpuri and impress Shakya voters. Both Raghuraj of the BJP and SP's Alok are Shakyas, a community that is the second most important caste after the Yadavs in the Mainpuri parliamentary constituency. If Shakya voters support the BJP in this by-election they will hugely harm the SP.

The SP has been losing votes in recent times. It faced defeat early this year when it lost the Azamgarh and Rampur Lok Sabha constituencies to the BJP in by-polls, including the Gola Gorakhnath. Shakyas are the second dominant caste in the Mainpuri Lok Sabha constituency after the Yadavs. Of the total 17.4 lakh electorate in Mainpuri for the Lok Sabha seat, there are an estimated seven lakh Yadavs, and around three lakh Shakyas.

The vote share of the SP went down even in Mulayam Singh's lifetime. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Mulayam Singh had defeated BJP's nominee Prem Singh Shakya by less than one lakh votes. In the elections before, the difference between the winning candidate from SP and the runner-up was more than 1,75,000 votes.

Rampur Report Card

Rampur has been a SP stronghold of the SP for long under the leadership of Azam Khan. The veteran Khan has won elections in Rampur repeatedly. But his last election was annulled due to a conviction in a hate speech related case that took place three years ago.

The jailed Khan had defeated BJP's Akash Saxena, son of former legislature Shiv Bahadur Saxena early this year. Akash is the chief complainant against Khan and will face SP's Asim Raja in the contest in December. Raja is SP's city president in Rampur and close to Khan. He is a well-known political face in the area.

Khatauli's Politics

The third constituency to go to the polls is Khatauli. Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Jayant Chaudhary is confident that with the support of the SP, his party's candidate Madan Bhaiya will be a winner.

The seat fell vacant after the disqualification of BJP's Vikram Saini who was convicted in a case related to the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013 by a special court last October. The BJP has chosen Rajkumari Saini, wife of Vikran Saini, to face Madan Bhaiya.