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NEW DELHI: Repeatedly snubbed, refused and challenged by father Mulayam Singh Yadav, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav was finally allotted the Samajwadi Party’s ‘cycle’ symbol by the Election Commission in a crucial victory on Monday. This brings the curtains down on one chapter of a bitter family feud that could easily be termed as one of the toughest battle of nerves in recent politics.
Akhilesh Yadav triumphed over many odds in this struggle for the Samajwadi legacy, fighting off canny manoeuvres by family toughies like uncle Shivpal Yadav and never-say-die political broker Amar Singh -- including an unprecedented expulsion, and public humiliation by party patriarch and father Mulayam.
He won the first round by getting himself elected the SP national president in a huge open convention, the second by procuring affidavits from over 50 per cent of the party’s elected members -- which eventually won him the last round as he was declared the legitimate heir to the party symbol. The EC went by the abiding principle of democracy and a key clause of its own Symbol rule -- majority support.
Mulayam’s counsel Mohan Parasaran’s argument challenging the validity of the SP convention, where Akhilesh was chosen the national party chief fell through in the face of the sheer numbers put forth by the Akhilesh faction, represented at the EC hearing by legal counsel Kapil Sibal and a political counsel in the shape of uncle Ram Gopal Yadav.
Unlike the moody and sulking Mulayam, Akhilesh played it firm, but clever and safe. He desisted from the temptation of making a public appearance against his father at the EC hearing, and instead deputed uncle Ram Gopal to battle it out. On Monday too, the first move of Akhilesh after the EC uploaded its verdict on the website was a visit to father Mulayam--a symbolic tribute by the “CM-saab’’ walking over to ‘’pitaji’s residence” next door. By contrast, Mulayam on Monday alleged that his son was anti-Muslim.
On Monday, the first move of Akhilesh Yadav after the EC announced its verdict was a visit to father Mulayam Singh Yadav — a symbolic tribute by the “CM-saab” walking over to “pitaji’s residence” next door to his. This humble overture toned down the blow of the new nameplate that appeared at the Samajwadi Party HQ in Lucknow earlier in the day: Akhilesh Yadav, Samajwadi Adhyaksh (president) and Mulayam Singh, Margdarshak (mentor). Almost pre-emptively declaring Akhilesh as the new ‘Netaji’ of the Samajwadis.
By contrast — even for those who were willing to bet that all this was ‘a game the wily old wrestler played to establish his son as his heir’ — Mulayam appeared rather plaintive before his handful of supporters, to whom he complained “Akhilesh mera sunta nahi hai aajkaal” (Akhilesh does not listen to me these days).
Though Mulayam has promised he will abide by the EC’s decision, SP insiders hope he would not make loose statements like “Akhilesh is not looking after the Muslims, like the way I took care of them”.
However, 46-year-old Akhilesh, having wrested control of the party through a trial by fire, is unlikely to let his father puncture his cycle ride into the Assembly elections. The alliance talks with the Rahul Gandhi-led Congress and Ajit Singh-led RLD, held up over the symbol dispute, will now take off in right earnest.
With Ajit Singh, Akhilesh clearly wants to harvest emotions in the restive Jat belt of western UP in his favour, while an alliance with the Congress may help him arrest any further splintering of Muslim votes. Plus, if the Congress manages to garner a small fraction of the 11 per cent Brahmin votes, it would be an add-on in the Varasani belt. Of the six regions of UP, in Awadh his own popularity would suffice. And in poverty-ridden Bundelkhand, his direct transfer of welfare may garner him some gains.
That the family feud could turn into Akhilesh’s advantage — making it an SP versus BJP contest — became evident from Ram Gopal Yadav’s statement that “we are thankful to EC for its ruling in our favour, now we will go on to win the elections”. Many feel the extensive coverage Akhilesh received in the process of his battle with his father and his manipulative cohorts helped enhance his image.
Mulayam’s refusal to make peace with his son, despite leaders like Azam Khan trying to broker truce, made him look like a prisoner in the hands of a few conspirators, and Akhilesh a victim, which may help him gain sympathy.
In the midst of this high-decibel tussle, BSP’s Mayawati seems to have been relegated to the background, while Akhilesh has grown out of his father’s shadow to take on the BJP. A direct fight with none other than Modi.