JASWANTNAGAR: If the Samajwadi Party comes to power in Uttar Pradesh, and chief minister Akhilesh Yadav offers his sidelined uncle Shivpal Yadav a ministerial berth, will he accept it? "Absolutely, I will accept it," he told HuffPost India.
Campaigning for the election in his seat, Jaswantnagar, Yadav hinted at a rapprochement with his nephew. Jaswantnagar – a family stronghold since 1985 – will vote on 19 February.
On 31 January, Shivpal had said he would float a new party after 11 March, when the election results are declared. He had also said he would support those who were denied Samajwadi Party tickets and were contesting as candidates of other parties. However, party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav had later said no new party would be formed.
For the last few days, Shivpal Yadav has been avoiding any mention, even indirectly, of the conflict in the party.
Trailing his campaign from village to village, we found him speak to voters only about his claims of development in Jaswantnagar as its MLA and all over Uttar Pradesh as a minister. He then proceeds to attack prime minister Narendra Modi for hardships caused by demonetisation, asking voters if the BJP has kept its promises. No longer does he talk about feeling hurt or insulted.
"We will first strengthen our organisation, then consult our senior leaders, talk to Netaji (Mulayam Singh Yadav) and then whatever faith the people show in us, we will accept."
"We are all working towards getting a full majority," he said an in interview. He said the party could have won the election without an alliance with the Congress, but that the coalition would nevertheless win a majority. So why was the Congress alliance necessary? "Ab ye to neta samjhey," he said wryly, "The leaders would know."
Why did he first announce the creation of a new party and then go back on it? "We will first strengthen our organisation, then consult our senior leaders, talk to Netaji (Mulayam Singh Yadav) and then whatever faith the people show in us, we will accept." That sounds like saying all options are open, are they? All he'll say is that he is working to bring his party a full majority.
Jaswantnagar, a family stronghold since 1985, will vote on 19 February. What will he do after that? He is no longer the party's state president, no longer a minister in the government, and not even named star campaigner. "I will get out after 19 February and go wherever needed. I will do whatever I am asked," he said. But asked by whom, Netaji or Akhilesh? "Whoever," he said, "whether Netaji or Akhilesh."
That is the first hint Shivpal Yadav has given that he is willing to accept Akhilesh Yadav's leadership once again, since Akhilesh dethroned his uncle from the post of state president on 1 January.
Asked about whether he has been in touch with Amar Singh and Akhilesh Yadav, he said he hasn't been in touch with the former for a while but has been in communication with his nephew, though not in the last week or two, he said evasively.
Will he campaign for party rebels who were denied tickets by Akhilesh? "We are working to strengthen the party and the organisation, to win a full majority and form government," he said, without clearly saying whether he would or would not campaign for rebel candidates. "I'm only doing what strengthens the party and the organisation and brings us to power with full majority."
Is he not supporting a rebel candidate in the neighbouring Etawah seat? "I am only concentrating on Jaswantnagar," he replied. Earlier, both him and Mulayam Singh Yadav had endorsed a Lok Dal candidate on that seat.
Are there attempts of sabotage within the party, with talk of Shivpal and Ramgopal Yadav trying to undermine each other's loyalists? "These things will be assessed after the result is out. Who does what, we don't know yet," he replied.
Does he feel sidelined, insulted? "Not at all," he said. "I never cared for positions. Be it Lohia or Gandhi, they never held any posts. The greatest thing in politics is to be with the people," he said.
The BJP has alleged the family drama in the SP was scripted to make voters forget the SP government's shortcomings. "When there is such talk (in the family), it does hurt us. But when there is reconciliation, all is well." So is all well now? "Yes," he replies.
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