Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav reportedly made his son, Akhilesh Yadav, and his brother, Shivpal Yadav, hug each other last night, and the three leaders have been talking privately to find some way of ending their feud. But their fighting has already exacted a terrible toll on their party, just months ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election, and time is running out for them to set things right.
"Our family and our party are one," Mulayam said at a press conference in Lucknow today, while stating that he had no objection to Akhilesh as chief minister, and the matter of sacking cabinet ministers was his son's decision.
Akhilesh's absence from the press conference was conspicuous, and his father made no commitment about who would be the chief minister in the future if the party came to power again.
A hug and talks are no guarantee of peace in the ruling Yadav family. After just a few weeks of calm following the previous blow up, an even deadlier squabble erupted on Sunday. The chief minister sacked four cabinet ministers including Shivpal, who, in turn, accused his cousin Ram Gopal Yadav, an Akhilesh sympathiser, of colluding with the Bharatiya Janata Party and suspended him.
"There is no Samajwadi Party without Akhilesh," Ram Gopal told the media today. "The bad penny has kicked out the good penny," he said, referring to Shivpal.
As the crisis deepened on Monday, the chief minister got a verbal lashing from Mulayam, causing him to almost breakdown in public. Mulayam even held up the example of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the ideal son while he was speaking to party workers in Lucknow on Monday. "Look at Modi, he has become PM with sheer hard work. He comes from a poor family and keeps claiming that he can't live without his mother. He hasn't left his mother even today," he said.
Meanwhile, Modi was calling for the UP electorate to look beyond the regional parties. "This time there is one family which is trying to save their family while the other is trying to grab power. The third is us, who are just trying to save UP," he said in a public rally in Mahoba.
In front of stunned party workers on Monday, Mulayam backed Shivpal and Amar Singh, who Akhilesh's camp accuses of creating a rift within the family, while the chief minister declared that he had no intention of starting his own party, even offering to resign. Today, once again, Mulayam asked why Singh, who recently returned to the Samajwadi Party after six years, had to be "dragged into everything."
Earlier today, Singh described Akhilesh as a fantastic chief minister, but not yet a mass leader. "I am not saying he is not a mass leader, but it takes time to become a mass leader. He is still very young. Blending of organisational skill and experience of Mulayam Singh and youth face of Akhilesh is very necessary," he said, Press Trust of India reported.
Just a few days earlier, Mulayam had fired the lawmaker who had written to him, suggesting that Akhilesh should become president of the party, and accused the SP supremo's second wife of carrying out black magic against the chief minister.
After two days of high drama, cooler heads appear to be prevailing at the moment. Since Monday night, Akhilesh, Mulayam and Shivpal have met privately in order to park, if not end, their feuding at least until the election is over. It is highly unlikely, especially at this late stage, that any of the three leaders can carry the election entirely on their own.
"There is no fighting within the Samajwadi Party, everyone is working together," party spokesperson Deepak Mishra told the media today.
Of course, political rivals have jumped on the family feud and called on the electorate to shun the Samajwadi Party in the state polls, but the graver problem for the Yadav family is that their fighting has also divided loyalties among the party members. In fact, SP workers have gone from shouting slogans in support of their favourite among the three leaders, to publicly brawling with each other.
Samajwadi Party's Maharashtra chief Abu Azmi blamed Singh for the feud, and called on Mulayam to prevent the party from falling apart. "I would request Mulayam Singh to stop the party from breaking into pieces. And I would also like to tell Netaji that your son Akhilesh Yadav is a very good and is very much worthy," he told ANI.
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