Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav ultimately brokered peace in his family by allowing his younger daughter-in-law Aparna Bisht Yadav, 27, to join politics and contest the 20
17 assembly elections from Lucknow Cantonment constituency, where she is pitted against Congress Party heavyweight Rita Bahuguna Joshi.
Growing discontent in the first family was obvious over battle of inheritance of his political legacy and equal share of power in the political arena between his two legal heirs. Aparna is wife of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s step-brother Prateek, who is the son of Mulayam Singh Yadav from his second wife Sadhna Gupta.
The Samajwadi Party leaders were feeling uncomfortable for a long time over the political ambitions of ‘Chhoti Bahu’, a postgraduate in International Relations and Politics from University of Manchester, UK. Aparna attracted public attention when she praised the governance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi publicly, sending ripples of shock to the party leadership as it was considered against party lines.
This was, in fact, reflective of internal power struggle in the family and soaring political aspirations, asking for equal share of power as compare to the CM’s wife Dimple Yadav, who twice won as a Member of Parliament from Kannauj, a prominent perfume export centre in the western part of UP and a traditional stronghold of the Yadav clan. Dimple enjoys excellent rapport with party workers, getting a rousing welcome wherever she goes.
Power tussle in the family initially surfaced during ticket distribution for parliamentary elections in 2014, when a group of party workers had staged protests for a whole day seeking a ticket for Prateek from Azamgarh, though father Mulayam Singh had not succumbed to such pressure tactics and allowed supremacy of his elder son khilesh in state politics. The latter is also state president of the party.
A trained singer in classical and semi-classical music from Lucknow’s Bhatkhande Music Institute, Aparna recorded promotional songs for the party during the Lok Sabha campaign in 2014. Her music performances are a regular feature of Saifai Mahotsav and Lucknow Mahotsav. She also works with the Harsh Foundation, as brand ambassador for its women empowerment campaign “B-aware.” She addressed girl students in nearly a dozen districts of the state, sensitising them about efforts of women empowerment and criticised incidents of rising atrocities on them. She also took part in protests organised by women activists in Lucknow to demand justice for Nirbhaya, victim of the 2014 brutal gangrape in Delhi.
Though Aparna professes admiration for her father-in-law, she intriguingly posted a selfie with Prime
Minister Narendra Modi on social media and praised his Swachch Bharat Abhiyan. Her inclination towards BJP core issues depicts ideological shift from Samajwadi philosophy as she opposes cow slaughter in the state. She criticised film actor Aamir Khan for his comments on intolerance despite Mulayam Singh’s support for the actor. Later she claimed this had nothing to do with Samajwadi Party for its ideology. “The ideas and criticism on social media sites are my personal views,” Aparna clarified to the media. “I always write what is on my mind… Passion is something related to the heart, not the mind: I follow my heart.”
The Samajwadi Party also felt uncomfortable when she went to Gorakhnath temple in Gorakhpur to meet BJP’s firebrand Hindutva leader Yogi Adityanath after the death of Mahant Avaidyanath. “We had planned to welcome her but once we came to know of her personal programme, we dropped the idea,” commented a perturbed office-bearer of the party. A political observer expressed the opinion that “the task of winning a prestigious seat of Lucknow Cantonment from prominent Congress leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi would be the litmus test of Aparna’s political journey. Rita Joshi is a sitting MLA and
has strong roots and presence in her constituency as she is considered to a sustained fighter for public concerns and enjoys a good reputation among her voters. Interestingly, Aparna also comes from the same Garhwal region that is Rita Bahuguna’s native place.
Ironically, it is the SP supremo who conspicuously blocked passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill in
Parliament, earning the ire of women activists at the national level. The patriarch was initially against his
daughters-in-law joining politics, but was persuaded by his son to allow Dimple’s debut. Now he has allowed AAparna to join politics as she showed signs of aligning with the BJP—and that could really harm party interests.