An Act of Harakiri, Brought on By Classic Political Intrigue

Party insiders say a deal struck by Amar Singh and Shivpal Yadav set in motion the sequence of events which led Mulayam Singh Yadav to expel son Akhilesh.

File photo of Shivpal Yadav (left) and samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav. Credit: PTI

File photo of Shivpal Yadav (left) and samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav. Credit: PTI

Lucknow: As soon as the second round of the family feud in Uttar Pradesh’s ruling Samajwadi Party came to the fore 48 hours ago, it was clear that the party was heading straight into the mouth of a disaster. Now that SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav has decided to expel son Akhilesh Yadav from the party, this is nothing but harakiri. All the damage control carried out by Mulayam over the past two months to restore unity in the party clearly went down the drain with his own diktat.

Anyone who has seen Mulayam through the decades and was well versed with his skilful and shrewd  political machinations could not have imagined  him undertaking the moves he did over the recent past. Therefore, there was reason to believe the 78-year-old patriarch of the party, which he had built from scratch, was acting under the undue influence of a strong lobby of insiders who were determined to weaken Akhilesh.  Their desperation led them to even overlook the irreparable damage that such a move was bound to cause to the party as a whole..

Akhilesh, too, had not imagined that his father would go to the extent of showing him the door. Barely three hours before Mulayam announced his ouster from the party, Akhilesh told The Wire “there is no question of a split in the party.” To another question – whether he would leave the party to form an independent political outfit – he shot back, “Why should I go out of the party? Let those people leave who have never done anything for it.”

Looking quite cool and composed while having lunch at a private farm house on the outskirts of the city, the chief minister looked confident about a “settlement of issues” in the party. “There was difference of opinion on just about 20-25 seats so I am confident that things will get sorted out soon,” he said.

So what is it transpired in the family-run party that precipitated things to such an extent that Mulayam took the extreme step of expelling the son he had so fondly anointed as chief minister in 2012?

Even though the father never allowed the son to function independently and he planted his hand-picked IAS officer, Anita Singh, as the chief minister’s principal secretary, Akhilesh did not defy the father. Back-seat driving and proxy rule by the father continued for four years and it was only when the next elections started knocking at the doors of the state that Akhilesh started asserting himself. And that was what was not palatable either to the father or ‘chacha‘, Shivpal, who always felt that the CM’s chair had been usurped by his nephew.

By then, Akhilesh had managed to establish his own leadership within the party as also acquire credibility as a young development-oriented chief minister. And there was reason behind that. After all, he had managed to successfully complete some of his dream development projects – foremost of them being the Lucknow metro-rail together with commencement of  similar metro projects in three other UP towns, putting the 301-km-long access-controlled expressway connecting Lucknow and Agra on the fast track, besides the state’s first world class cricket stadium to host international matches.

The enhancement of his image from a chocolate boy to that of a young forward-looking dynamic chief minister put in an enviable position within the family. Caught between an ambitious uncle (Shivpal) and an overpowering father, he had to latch on to the other uncle – Ram Gopal Yadav – who became his friend, philosopher, guide. But each one of the three dominant  family members were quite used to extracting their pound of flesh from Akhilesh so they did not relish the young scion’s assertiveness as chief minister.

While the father did not mind allowing the son certain liberties at times, Shivpal did not like the idea of getting overshadowed by the nephew, whom he had literally brought up as a child. That was the time when Mulayam’s old ally, Amar Singh, was moving heaven and earth to regain entry into the Samajwadi Party from which he had been expelled six years earlier. Amar Singh could not succeed largely on account of the stiff opposition put up by Akhilesh, Ram Gopal and Azam Khan – who  never relished his undue influence on Mulayam.

Finding Shivpal the most vulnerable, Amar Singh cultivated him to stage a comeback in the party. If insiders were to be believed , the deal between Amar and Shivpal was plain and simple – if Shivpal would get him in, Amar would pave the way for his coronation as chief minister after ensuring Akhilesh’s exit.

Akhilesh could see the writing on the wall. Thus, even though it was a little late in the day, he decided to take on all his foes. He was, however, careful in not entering into any direct confrontation with his father, who, in turn, restrained himself from causing any direct harm to his son, who he otherwise did not mind humiliating on many occasions.

The anti-Akhilesh lobby could not take this lying down; the rapprochement struck between father and son was too much for them to swallow. So the lobby got active and did not take much time in poisoning the patriarch’s ears once again.  This Amar-led lobby is alleged to have taken full advantage of Mulayam’s weaknesses on account of age. It is alleged that on Thursday evening, Mulayam  was led to believe that the son might move to usurp the party supremo’s position from his father. A vulnerable Mulayam ordered Akhilesh’s ouster in a huff, without even giving a thought to the fact that the move could end up fatally wounding the party.

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