Ahead of the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, scheduled to be held in a few months next year, the estranged uncle-nephew duo of Shivpal Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav is sending feelers for each other. Reportedly, on Tuesday, Shivpal, through his new party Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia) asked his nephew to decide on an alliance or merger of his party with the SP without delay. However, if we wind the clock a few years ago, it was the ugly spat between the duo that led to Shivpal walking out of the party.
From a bird’s eye view of the proceedings, it might appear that what happened four years ago was simply an ego war of Akhilesh in which Mulayam and Shivpal were the collateral victims, but a closer look reveals that it was the father-son pairing of Mulayam-Akhilesh that engineered the entire saga, and ultimately, the fall of Shivpal.
The fissures appeared long before the snap
While the split transpired in 2017, the seeds of discord were sown long back when SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav picked Akhilesh ahead of Shivpal to lead the state government after the victory in the 2012 assembly elections. However, Shivpal masked his contempt well and got along with the job, as Akhilesh granted few lucrative cabinet portfolios to keep him at bay.
The first real crisis between the relations came in 2015. On the inaugural day of the Saifai Mahotsav. Shivpal expelled three close aides of Akhilesh Yadav for anti-party activities. As a result, the then state CM was forced to miss the opening day of the family festival.
Speculations of rift soon started making the airwaves. However, the party, at the behest of Mulayam quickly doused the situation by reinstating the expelled leaders and it all came to a mushy ending.
What followed was a series of back-and-forth incidents here both Shivpal and Akhilesh tried to project themselves as the alpha males. Shivpal brought in Bahubali criminal Mukhtar Ansari and his party into SP’s fold. Akhilesh protested against the decision, and the merger was cancelled.
Shivpal cried hoarsely, threatened resignation. Mulayam stepped in, said the party would split if Shivpal was to leave. Thus, Akhilesh mellowed down.
Amar Singh and his inclusion — the turning point
However, what broke down the communication between the old and new factions of SP was the inclusion of Late Amar Singh into the party after 6, long years in the wilderness. Akhilesh didn’t give his accent to the decision and protested vehemently against it.
Amid reports of a meeting between Amar and Mulayam, the SP patriarch removed Akhilesh, replacing him with Shivpal as state unit president. Akhilesh retaliated by stripping Shivpal of all key portfolios, including the lucrative PWD department.
Read More: With lots of tea to spill, Amar Singh was a rare politician and a huge reason for Samajwadi Party’s decimation
3-d chess moves of SP patriarch
A sulking Shivpal camped in Saifai and this is where Mulayam Singh started playing his 3-d chess moves. In a series of press conferences, Mulayam sat beside Shivpal and made everyone believe that these two were the victims. Upon being asked if Shivapal will leave the party, Mulayam had remarked, “Shivpal will be in the party and governemnt, both. He will take care of the party in UP. I and Ram Gopal Yadav took the decision.”
Having ensured backing of the party supremo, Shivpal toned town his angst against the chief minister saying that “whatever is acceptable to Netaji (Mulayam) is acceptable to me as well.”
Shivpal was cornered into believing that Akhilesh was the villain
It was a particularly clever ploy as Shivpal could not target Mulayam when the patriarch was sitting in his corner. The belief was reinforced when Mulayam expelled Akhilesh for six years after the UP CM released a parallel list of candidates. However, akin to a doting father, Mulayam quickly went back on his decision and a day later redeemed his son.
Soon, Akhilesh rounded up the party MLAs of the state, crowned himself as the state unit leader, bumping Mulayam as the mentor of the party while leaving Shivpal with nothing. Mulayam, who had been batting all the while in Shivpal’s corner suddenly became the wise sage, who was only overseeing the developments.
Shivpal Yadav and Amar Singh became history overnight. Many had suspected it was the end of the road for the former and it somehow materialized into the same.
Shivpal was forced to break away from the party thinking Akhilesh planned his doom. However, as it stands, Mulayam was the blindspot that Shivpal missed.
Another tactic that seemingly backfired for Shivpal was the fact that he tried to play an internal game to weaken the hold of Mulayam within the family, by involving the children of the second wife of Mulayam.
Read More: The ‘real reason’ why Akhilesh and Mulayam fought in full public?
While party workers widely believed that Mulayam and Akhilesh would never separate, the family dispute involving ‘brothers & sisters from another mother was the wrong move of Shivpal. He exposed to the national limelight, personal issues of Mulayam Singh Yadav that were formerly kept without attracting much attention.
Even though Mulayam was treated rudely by Akhilesh on the political stage, the old patriarch was not letting anyone else handle the reins of the party, especially one that brought internal family matters into the open.
The move might have backfired for SP as it lost the 2017 assembly elections and the 2019 General elections but what remains interesting is how Mulayam cleverly played the entire family-feud episode.
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