LUCKNOW: When Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav signed a two-para press note to reinstate his cousin in the party -- and by virtue of it as the general secretary of party's powerful parliamentary board and leader of the party in Rajya Sabha -- the inherent message was -- his son Akhilesh Yadav is now his undisputed heir apparent. It also meant that the Uttar Pradesh chief minister has emerged stronger in the party.
At SP's central parliamentary board meeting last week, Akhilesh had strongly spoken in favour of the reinstatement of Ram Gopal as well as other sacked youth leaders in the party. Although no immediate decision was taken, the board had authorised Mulayam to take a call. The SP supremo exercised his power on Thursday to take back his estranged cousin into the party fold. Now, party sources say, the case of sacked youth leaders -- all close to Akhilesh -- should also be considered sympathetically.
Thursday's sudden development in Lucknow had a ripple effect in Saifai- the party supremo Mulayam’s village where people broke into celebration after hearing the news. "We are really happy that Ram Gopal ji has been taken back. The internal feud was really eating into the party," says Heera Lal Yadav from Sefai.
Ram Gopal has been the most vocal supporter of Akhilesh and strongly sided with him in the present family feud in which the chief minister was pitted against his uncle and SP state chief Shivpal Yadav. His open support to Akhilesh ultimately led to his sacking on October 23, 2016. His sudden comeback now means that Mulayam has subtly sided with his son and at the same time given a message to his younger brother to mend fences with Akhilesh at the earliest.
Although Mulayam has been given a veto power by the parliamentary board in this regard, it also said that Akhilesh and Shivpal would do the due diligence before finalising the names. Now, with Ram Gopal's sudden comeback as a strong general secretary and the party's face in Delhi, he too is likely to have a say in ticket distribution.
An elated Ram Gopal told reporters in New Delhi that he was never out of the party. "It was just a technical issue and Netaji (Mulayam) was never against me," he said.
Shivpal, who went to meet Akhilesh on Thursday morning immediately after Ram Gopal's reinstatement, later told media persons that he would follow the order of the party chief.
Party spokesperson Mohammad Shahid told Express that the decision was taken by Netaji, whose orders are like a supreme command for all the party members. "Who comes in and who goes out is immaterial. What Netaji has decided is welcomed," he said.
Political experts believe that while Ram Gopal's reinstatement was a decision taken out of political exigency as the party had to show a united front before the elections. The move reinstates Mulayam’s command over the party and also suggests that SP is gearing up to hold its first poll rally in Ghazipur a week from now.
JP Shukla, a political observer, who has been observing the party and UP politics for over 45 years, says Mulayam has shown that he is the unchallenged leader of the party and despite the recent hiccups, his diktats would reign supreme. "Besides, he also appears to be gravitating away from his brother and siding with the son," he says, adding "also, with this the internal feud in the party looks to have subsided at least on the surface for now."
“Now Shivpal Yadav is left with limited choices. Either he will have to fall in line and accept Akhilesh as the party’s face in upcoming polls or chart his own course," said a close party source.
Bahujan Samajwadi Party chief Mayawati, however, came out with an immediate response on Thursday that SP's internal feud was far from over as the party was badly divided between Akhilesh and Shivpal camps. Therefore, she cautioned Muslim voters not to 'waste their votes on the party’.
Will SP leaders prove her wrong? Only time will tell.