Amidst the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, the latest reports suggest that all is well within the Samajwadi Party. The Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohiya) that was founded by former SP leader and SP President Akhilesh Yadav’s uncle Shivpal Singh Yadav have stitched together an alliance. And the relationship between the uncle and the nephew too is said to be improving.
So, the rift between Shivpal Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav is coming to an end. Akhilesh is the unchallenged SP candidate for the CM post. But how did the feud in the Mulayam clan unfold, and how did Akhilesh become the undisputed inheritor of SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav’s legacy?
The rise of Akhilesh
The story started over a decade ago, in 2010 or 2011. At that time, the 2012 UP Assembly polls were approaching. Mulayam Singh Yadav was leading the SP at the time while BSP supremo Mayawati was the state’s Chief Minister. The SP, however, seemed set to win the upcoming polls, which it ultimately did.
At the national level, there was a lot going on. The Congress-led UPA was in power for a second successive term but the Congress wasn’t expected to win many seats on its own in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. At the same time, political pundits were writing off the BJP. The party had performed below expectations in the 2004 and 2009 elections. Also, the present-day PM Narendra Modi was then the CM of Gujarat and it wasn’t clear if he will be the party’s PM candidate in 2014.
Mulayam Singh Yadav himself is known to have once nursed Prime Ministerial ambitions. Before the 2012 Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, Mulayam Singh Yadav almost had a guaranteed UP Chief Minister post to take. And while it is an enviable political position, it was time for the SP patriarch to nurse higher political ambitions, that is, the PM post.
After all, if the Congress and the BJP were to get too weak, then it was only SP and Mulayam Singh Yadav who had the numbers to fill in the political vacuum. But who should succeed Mulayam Singh Yadav’s political legacy in UP if the leader is to look for national-level ambitions?
The succession episode
In 2010 or 2011, Akhilesh Yadav wasn’t at the centre stage of UP politics. He had won the Kannauj Lok Sabha by-elections held on February 17, 2000, and was also a member of the Committee on Food, Civil Supplies and Public Distribution and Committee on Ethics. He was also re-elected twice to the Lok Sabha- in 2004 and 2009.
But it wasn’t as if Akhilesh was all over the place. The Mulayam clan is actually very large. Mulayam Singh Yadav’s brothers- Shivpal Singh Yadav, Ram Gopal Yadav, Rajpal Singh Yadav, Abhay Ram Yadav and Ratan Singh Yadav are prominent in Uttar Pradesh. There are also several second-generation political leaders, including Akhilesh Yadav himself, and his cousins- Anshul Yadav, Akshay Yadav and Dharmendra Yadav.
However, out of all the members of the Mulayam clan, it is Shivpal Singh Yadav who used to be very prominent in the 2000s and also used to wield a lot of influence in Uttar Pradesh politics. He had a big role to play in Mulayam Singh Yadav’s rise as an incredibly popular leader in UP. So, when Mulayam Singh Yadav started eyeing bigger ambitions, there were two main contenders for the UP CM post in 2012- Akhilesh Yadav and Shivpal Singh Yadav.
Akhilesh won the succession episode in 2012
Akhilesh Yadav is the son of SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, so he had a natural advantage. But then, Akhilesh wasn’t at the centre of politics, and Shivpal Singh Yadav was quite influential. Also, Mulayam Singh Yadav hadn’t explicitly declared that he would pass on the baton to Akhilesh instead of Shivpal Singh Yadav.
But then, Akhilesh remained in contention, and Mulayam Singh Yadav too preferred Akhilesh over Shivpal for the CM post.
The tiff goes public
In 2016, however, things went a step further as there was a public feud between Akhilesh Yadav and Shivpal Singh Yadav that was widely reported by the media. The feud preceded the 2017 Assembly polls. There were two clear factions in the party- one led by Akhilesh and the other by Akhilesh’s childhood mentor Shivpal. In fact, there were reports of Akhilesh Yadav at odds with his father Mulayam Singh Yadav and uncle Shivpal Singh Yadav.
It was strange for Mulayam Singh Yadav was the leader of the party and had a much bigger clout than his son in the party. In any case, Akhilesh did not make political remarks against his father and even said that he would step down if-then SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav asked him to do so. But gloves came off in the feud between Akhilesh Yadav and his uncle Shivpal Singh Yadav.
How Shivpal Singh Yadav ended up getting side-tracked?
While Akhilesh Yadav sacked Shivpal Singh Yadav from the cabinet in 2016, Shivpal himself criticised Akhilesh Yadav. Shivpal definitely got carried away in the feud, only to realise that he had got cornered and that Mulayam Singh Yadav seemed aloof from active politics. He went berserk but that didn’t go too well in his future political ventures.
Mulayam Singh Yadav seemed to stay aloof in politics. He didn’t become the Prime Minister but his son has remained at the helm of affairs within the Samajwadi Party. For Mulayam Singh Yadav, this seems like a no profit, no loss kind of an incident but for Shivpal Singh Yadav, the episode has ended up ruining his political career.
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