NEW DELHI -- For a moment it looked like the Yadav family had sailed out of troubled waters. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had stood up to his father, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, and to uncle Shivpal Yadav, before gracefully bowing to the wishes of the elders by giving back his uncle's portfolios and respectfully allowing him to take the reins of the SP presidentship.
But fresh developments over the weekend suggest that Mulayam's cosmetic surgery to patch things up between his son and his younger brother has failed to stem the underlying current of resentment, and that there are no clears winners just yet.
While Akhilesh might have stood his ground and silenced those who had dismissed him as too much of a pushover to be an effective leader, this feud has taken a toll on the morale of the party over the past week, dividing its workers just as they get ready to do battle in the 2017 UP Assembly polls.
Here is what is going on: on Saturday, Mulayam described Akhilesh as incompetent and entitled. Meanwhile, Shivpal Yadav expelled the nephew of his cousin and Rajya Sabha lawmaker Ram Gopal Yadav, who had stuck by Akhilesh in last week's feuding, along with seven youth leaders who had also supported the CM. Then, Ram Gopal's son and Lok Sabha lawmaker, Akshay Yadav, accused Shivpal of trying to humiliate his father. Adding fuel to fire were the slogan-shouting party workers belonging to Akhilesh and Shivpal camps.
Intense feuding in the Yadav family erupted last week after Mulayam replaced Akhilesh with Shivpal as party president in UP, and Akhilesh hit back by removing his 61-year-old uncle from key ministerial posts.
If this was, as some suggest, an elaborate drama staged to establish Akhilesh as the boss, then Mulayam has veered off the script with some disastrous lines. The SP supremo has knocked his son in the past, but his criticism of Akhilesh on Saturday was virulent.The 71-year-old lashed out against his 43-year-old son for the "humiliating" him in the 2014 national election, while criticizing the work he has done during his tenure as CM. "If I had listened to Shivpal, we would have won 30-35 seats and I would have been the PM," he said.
Even with emotions running high, it seems unreal for a father to unleash such wrath against a son, in public, and for the party chief to verbally pulverize the face of party, just five months before a crucial election. What is even more extraordinary is that hardly any effort is being made to better stage manage the family feud. Now, all that political opponents of Akhilesh have to do is remind the electorate that the CM's own father has no faith in him.
Observers have remarked that what looked like a clash of egos, which is nothing out of the ordinary in any family, now appear to be serious fault-lines among the members of the Yadav clan. This could be very demotivating for party workers, especially those who don't already have favorites, and who now might feel the pressure to choose a party leader.
To take on formidable opponents like the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Assembly polls, Mulayam, the patriarch, Shivpal, the man-at-arms, and Akhilesh, the future, should be presenting a united front.
Instead, SP is squandering the one big advantage it does have, a face, because people like to know who their next leader will be. While the BJP is likely to do a rerun of the Modi wave and the Congress party has Sheila Dikshit, who has failed to make a dent so far, the SP has an abundance of riches in that all three leaders -- father, uncle or brother -- would be an acceptable choice.
Tech-savvy Akhilesh represents the promise of taking the party, still feudal at its core, into a new age of development, Shivpal, is the organiser and the net-worker who gets things done behind the scenes, while Mulayam still looms large over his fiefdom.
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