Eclipsed by the Son
Yadav Jr’s elevation has left Mulayam’s old guard playing second fiddle, says Brijesh Pandey
EVER SINCE 39-year-old Akhilesh Yadav, the son of Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, 72, took over the leadership mantle of the state unit from his uncle Shivpal Singh Yadav, 56, the old guard has been feeling uncomfortable.
The fissures came out in the open in December last, when Shivpal inducted Haseen Uddin Siddiqui into the SP. He is the brother of Naseem Uddin Siddiqui, who is the PWD minister and a close confidant of BSP supremo Mayawati.
The move was supposed to embarrass the BSP, but the SP ended up paying a heavy price. Within a week of the announcement came the shocker that brought the family feud out in the open. Akhilesh issued a clarification that Siddiqui had not joined the SP. This denial caught Shivpal off-guard and surprised senior leaders. Shivpal met his brother Mulayam to vent his frustration. All he got were words of comfort, not a revocation of Akhilesh’s decision nor a reprimand to the nephew for contradicting the uncle so brazenly. Ultimately, to save face, Shivpal played down the incident by blaming it on the media.
That was not the only slight Shivpal Yadav has faced in the run-up to the 2012 Assembly election. He had a tough time getting tickets for people close to him and, in a few cases, had to remain a mute spectator. Shivpal, who has been No. 2 in the SP for a long time, is finding this downgrade hard to digest.
A whole bunch of old-timers are being sidelined by Yadav Jr’s youth brigade. For instance, former SP leader DP Yadav met senior SP leader Azam Khan. Later, a statement was issued to the effect that DP Yadav has also spoken to Mulayam and was likely to join the party. Shivpal also issued a press release to this effect. However, within a few hours, Akhilesh announced at a rally that there is no chance that people such as DP Yadav will join the SP, adding that the party has no place for ‘tainted’ people.
Worse followed. SP spokesman Mohan Singh was shown the door when he aired his views on the possibility of DP Yadav joining the party. This decision stunned many party leaders. Ram Gopal Yadav, 50, a cousin of Mulayam’s, was immediately appointed as the new spokesman. One thing was now clear: it was either Akhilesh’s way or the highway.
While talking to TEHELKA, Mohan Singh was at his diplomatic best. “The DP Yadav incident is a closed chapter,” he says. “I have no issues with Mulayam and though I have met him after my removal, we have not discussed this issue at all. I am a Samajwadi and I don’t see myself in any other place.”
However, party insiders paint a different picture. “If people like Shivpal Yadav, Azam Khan and Mohan Singh can be rebuked, removed and humiliated publicly, then you can imagine what the rest of the old Samajwadi guard must be feeling,” says a senior leader. “Mulayam is blinded by love for his son and has given Akhilesh a carte blanche to run the party. It could prove to be disastrous at the hustings.”
In fact, SP MLAs, who have switched sides and now are fighting the election on Congress tickets, single out Akhilesh for criticism, saying he is one of the biggest reasons for their leaving the party. Shishupal Singh Yadav, who is a former SP MLA and is contesting on a Congress ticket, says, “Now there is no room for old Samajwadis in the SP. People like us worked as much as we could but as it is said ‘shayad unka aakhiri ho ye sitam, har sitam ye soch kar hum seh gaye’ (I bore all the indignity, thinking that this might be the last).”
‘Mulayam is blinded by love for his son. It could prove disastrous at the hustings,’ warns a senior SP leader
So are we likely to see a split in the Samajwadi Party or just another face-off between uncle and nephew? As a party insider puts it, “Shivpal is clever enough to know that in a one-man party, the whole nucleus of the party lives and dies with the man. Even if you are the so-called No. 2 and No. 3, the reality is that you don’t have an existence outside the party.
“Look at what happened to Amar Singh. A couple of years ago, he was the most powerful person in SP. Now, he has no existence. So Shivpal and Co. have no option but to toe the party line. But in electoral politics, especially when you are fighting such an important poll, you don’t antagonise people that much.”
“The fact must not be lost upon Mulayam that right now all the big shots the Congress has are all old SP hands. A few of them left because of Amar Singh and some left because they knew that irrespective of what they do, they won’t rise beyond a point. Now the biggest challenge the patriarch is facing is to ensure that this election doesn’t result in further erosion of what is left of the SP.”
Brijesh Pandey is Special Correspondent with Tehelka.