Numerous theories have been floated to explain the implications of the ongoing feud in the Samajwadi Party. But matters took a significant turn on Monday when the family feud within the ruling party in Uttar Pradesh unfolded in full public view at a party meeting. During the meeting, the party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav sided with his brother Shivpal and friend Amar Singh, and chided his son, Akhilesh Yadav, although he quashed all claims of his ouster as Chief Minister. There is little doubt that the party is in turmoil, as Mulayam seeks to wrest control from his son. The resulting feud has compelled the party’s rank and file to take sides. “The bile-filled exchanges between top SP leaders on Monday came a day after the continuing battle of attrition between Akhilesh and his uncle Shivpal Yadav saw the Chief Minister sacking Shivpal and three other ministers close to him, and Mulayam striking back with vengeance expelling from the party for six years his cousin Ram Gopal Yadav,” reported Millennium Post. In the latest chapter of this feud, however, Akhilesh seems to have come out as the real winner. Despite Mulayam’s public admonishment, it appears that the overwhelming support that Akhilesh Yadav enjoys from many at the meeting apparently forced his father to dispel all claims of his ouster. Apparently, the party patriarch’s contentions that Akhilesh is an insignificant figure in UP politics have not cut much ice with the party’s rank and file. In fact, Akhilesh had called for a meeting of all 224 party MLAs on Sunday following the spate of resignations and dismissals within the party, of which 183 turned up to elicit their support. In appointing Akhilesh as the Chief Ministerial face for the 2012 elections, Mulayam had laid down the path of succession in the state, despite opposition from the old guard, led by the likes of Shivpal. The party patriarch’s eyes were turned towards the 2014 general elections, as a significant leader of the proposed Third Front. However, none of the regional parties could agree on a formal Third Front, and the Narendra Modi-led BJP swept to power at the Centre. In the meantime, Akhilesh laid down roots in the state and carved out his identity among the voting electorate with a host of development projects.
The growing perception now is that Akhilesh wants to break out of the traditional mould of Muslim-Yadav identity politics that has defined the old guard. With Modi’s development mantra achieving major hits since the general elections (except Delhi and Bihar) the Yadav scion seems to have read the writing on the wall. Supporters of Akhilesh claim that he wants to change perceptions of the party and espouse politics of development and empowerment. In fact, political commentators have argued that while the party is submerging under the tide of anti-incumbency, Akhilesh’s image has largely remained unscathed. These analysts claim that the crisis has strengthened the perception that Akhilesh is a well-meaning person who wants to turn the state around from the doldrums of slow economic growth, but is not being allowed to function independently by his father and uncle. This growing perception has led many to believe that while the old guard seeks to sideline him, Akhilesh has acquired the necessary political capital to override them. At the heart of this struggle between the various factions lies the question of which side of the Yadav family gets to take control of the party moving beyond the upcoming Assembly elections. In the event of a defeat in the Assembly elections, this question will hold greater relevance. Realising that his dalliance with national politics has come to nought, many commentators perceive that Mulayam wants to protect his turf in Uttar Pradesh, starting with regaining control of the party. But as Monday’s events have shown, the old fox has a serious fight on his hands. It is clear that there will be no split in UP’s ruling party and Akhilesh’s continuance as Chief Minister is under no threat whatsoever. Does this mean that the Yadav scion will play top dog for the upcoming Assembly elections with his detractors within the party playing second fiddle? It is hard to tell. Opposition parties, meanwhile, will surely follow future developments within the SP. Parties like the Bahujan Samaj Party, Bharatiya Janata Party, and Congress will look to pick up the pieces from any fallout of the family feud. Watch this space for more.