Lucknow: Only a few months before the assembly elections, the question being asked in Uttar Pradesh political circles is if the week-long Samajwadi Party drama that played out on the streets of Lucknow was actually scripted by party founder and patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Far from resolving the crisis that had plagued the party in its 25th year of existence, Mulayam’s press conference here on Tuesday has raised more questions than it has answered.
What matters at the end of the day, however, is that father Mulayam finally let his son, Akhilesh, continue as chief minister. He also flatly turned down the much-touted demand of the anti-Akhilesh, Shivpal Yadav-led lobby that he should himself don the mantle of chief minister. “I do not wish to be CM again”, was his subtle way to tell all and sundry that he was not going to strip his son of the crown he had conferred on him in March 2012.
Thousands of party activists who gathered outside the party office again on Tuesday looked lost after Mulayam failed to give them any definite direction – without which the party stands in total disarray at a time when it should be bracing itself for the state assembly elections in early 2017.
Strangely, even as the Samajwadi Party appeared as a sharply divided house, the septuagenarian chief still sought to put up a façade of order. “The family is one and so is the party“ he declared with a smile, but refused to entertain any questions on his blue-eyed boy, Amar Singh – considered by Akhilesh and a large chunk of party leaders as the key culprit behind all the trouble in the party. “I will not take any questions on Amar Singh”, he flatly told media persons.
Earlier on Monday, when he convened a meeting of MLAs and MPs at the party’s state headquarters, Mulayam surprised everyone by going all out to hold a brief for Amar Singh. His 55-minute monologue was full of venom and anger against his son. What made matters worse was his open and passionate defence of Amar Singh, against whom the party had launched a tirade barely 24 hours back.
Amar’s posters were torn and burnt in front of the chief minister’s residence by Akhilesh’s supporters, who besides terming him as a “BJP tout” also openly demanded his ouster from the party once again. They attributed all the trouble in the party to his return in May 2016, after a six-year exile. And his grouse against Akhilesh arose on account of the latter’s tooth and nail opposition to his re-induction into the party. Amar was also sore with Akhilesh because the chief minister did not allow him to meddle with land allotments in the highly lucrative areas of Noida and Greater Noida, where he held complete sway during his earlier stint in the party.
Even as he kept himself discreetly away from all the action in Lucknow, Amar Singh was believed to have masterminded every word of what Mulayam uttered against Akhilesh. He literally turned a deaf ear to various issues raised by his son in his crisp address at the outset of the meeting.
In his bid to unabashedly hold a brief for Amar, the SP supremo went to the extent of attributing all credit to Amar for “saving” him and Akhilesh “from going to jail”. Mulayam did not hesitate to spell out how Amar Singh approached different people to save him and Akhilesh in the disproportionate assets case in which the entire Yadav clan was under the CBI scanner until the investigating agency decided to file a closure report in the case. Even a subsequent petition before the apex court for reopening of the case was not entertained.
When a journalist sought to ask about the fate of his cousin, Ram Gopal Yadav, whom he had himself expelled on Monday for a period of six years, Mulayam shot back, “No one should listen to that man.” That reflected the irony of Ram Gopal’s fate, as not very long ago, he was regarded as the party’s “think tank” and as late as 24 hours back he was undisputedly the party’s most powerful general secretary as also SP leader in the Rajya Sabha.
Mulayam not only ruled out any change in the status of both Amar Singh and Ram Gopal, he also chose to remain non-committal on the question of the re-induction of Shivpal Yadav and three other ministers who were unceremoniously dropped by Akhilesh from his cabinet on Sunday. “As for return of the sacked ministers, you should address the question to Akhilesh, who is the chief minister”, Mulayam said. However, when a reporter sought to know whether Akhilesh would be projected as the party’s chief ministerial face in the 2017 election, he repeated the same loaded remark that had stirred a hornet’s nest earlier: “It is the prerogative of elected MLAs to decide who should be their chief minister.”
As if that was not enough to dismiss the popular demand for projecting Akhilesh as the party’s chief minister in the election campaign, Mulayam went a step further. “The last election was contested on my face”, he claimed, hastening to add, “and we won with a thumping majority”, in an obvious bid to completely negate the fact that the tide had turned in favour of the SP in 2012, essentially because of Akhilesh’s spotless face that was seen as casting the SP in a new mould.
Evidently however, Tuesday’s developments remained quite “meaningless” in terms of any long term solution to the full blown war within the ruling Yadav clan. It is now evident that the party leadership has already given up on the 2017 assembly poll. The on-going battle in the family-run party is all about who will control the party in the years to come . After all, age is catching up with Mulayam, whose incoherence has been quite visible for some time now. A 43- year old Akhilesh has age on his side, while chacha Shivpal had crossed 60.
The first round has surely gone to Akhilesh, who will, after all, remain in the chief ministerial saddle. Yet, it may not be easy for him to consolidate his position without flexing his muscles – and forcing another damaging showdown with uncle Shivpal and his supporters.