LUCKNOW: The bungalows of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his embattled uncle Shivpal Yadav sit almost adjacent to each other on Lucknow’s fancy Kalidas Marg. But the distance between the two continues to be a critical factor ahead of the upcoming Assembly polls.
This is despite the former calling on his uncle on Saturday to formally congratulate him on being made the state party chief, with a 40-minute tea meet thrown in and a press conference to showcase party unity.
“I congratulated the state party chief appointed by ‘Netaji’... We are united, there is no rift in the party,’’ Akhilesh said in response to a ‘role call’, just as Shivpal headed towards the airport.
But as another day of attrition wound down, it was apparent that the four-point compromise formula proposed by party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav has only served to put a facade of unity. The factional rivalry runs deep, all the way down to the grassroots.
If the last two days saw Shivpal’s loyalist MLAs protesting in front of the CM’s bungalow, today it was the turn of the party’s Yuva Morcha musketeers to put up a show of strength, raising slogans outside Mulayam’s residence and the party office, both on Vikramaditya Marg, which runs perpendicular to the other power street. At the party office itself and around, there are shops selling Samajwadi souvenirs. What strikes the eye are the T-shirts with Akhilesh’s face embossed on them, matching his new assertiveness.
And yet, it is clear that Mulayam’s formula has left his CM son in an aspect of retreat. His say in ticket distribution has not quite been formalised, which is why the youth wing is protesting.
Lucknow: The new ‘executive committee’ of the Samajwadi Party for candidate selection will be headed by ‘Netaji’ and “beta (son) will be a part of it’’, a top party leader pointed out. Unlike the last Assembly polls when Akhilesh was fully at the helm of affairs.
The other bit of news that filtered out on Saturday—that while most of Shivpal’s portfolios will be restored, a few new added taking the total tally to 13, Akhilesh will retain the PWD ministry and not give it back to Shivpal—is part of the same face-saving show of fight-back. PWD is a crucial ministry in a government that has initiated massive infrastructure projects—its budget totals up to more than all the other ministries returned to Shivpal.
Despite the damage potential a public family feud can have so close to elections—and the unseemly spectacle of the father siding with a middle-aged brother rather than his own chosen heir—there is a very good reason why the SP supremo has chosen to act this way.
The middle-aged rank and file at the grassroots—from the same generation as his and Shivpal’s—are the real backbone of the party. This crucial segment, which Shivpal controls to a great degree, has always felt alienated from Akhilesh’s Lucknow-bound style of functioning. They feel no access to power other than the more rustic uncle. So if Shivpal is disenchanted, he has the capacity to cause serious damage during elections. It is to avert the chances of a rebellious sabotage that Mulayam has chosen to side with the brother.
On the other hand, with Shivpal in charge of ticket distribution and taking onus as state party chief, he will be compelled to take ownership of the election battle and ensure victories. Indeed, even if he has to grant the wishes of Akhilesh on a few seats, the onus will be on Shivpal to see them through to victory. At least, in theory.