From Betaji to Netaji
The takeover of Akhilesh Yadav as the national president of the Samajwadi Party was not without its share of damage control. More so after the event. Because Akhilesh’s supporters were so scared that the young Chief Minister may give in to emotion and once again cede to his father that amongst themselves, the young brigade ensured that he was never left alone. That way there would always be someone to keep a check on him, in case he handed the party back to his father. And why is being the national president so important? There is more at stake than just the title, for national president allots tickets and more importantly has access to the party funds, which have also been frozen until the issue is resolved. There is reportedly as much as Rs 500 crore in the coffers and even if Akhilesh gives in to Mulayam and cedes control of the party back to the patriarch, Team Akhilesh is worried that the first thing the Old Guard would do is to wipe out the coffers.
Tale of Two Bungalows
It was the first sign that all was not well at Chez Yadavs. Sometime after the Navratras last October, Akhilesh moved out of his father’s house, 5 Vikramaditya Marg, in Lucknow. Until then Mulayam, his wife and Akhilesh’s step-mother Sadhna Yadav and the CM and his family all shared the same bungalow. But in early October, Akhilesh shifted out to a bungalow right next door, 4 Vikramaditya Marg. And despite the separate outside gates, the two bungalows have a connecting door from the inside. And very often Akhilesh has used this to try and broker a truce with his father, away from the media glare. He has even suggested to Mualayam in one such meeting that he (Akhilesh) should be allowed to take over as the SP national president for the next three months, until after the elections. After that if Mulayam was not happy with the results, Akhilesh would gladly hand over the party back to him. However, this formula has not found favour with Mulayam. Perhaps for reasons mentioned above!
Gen Next Diplomacy
Local journalists in Lucknow are abuzz with yet another unofficial channel of communication between the father and son — and that is Akhilesh’s two daughters, Aditi and Tina. They often use the interconnecting door to hop across to meet their grandfather. According to a local source, during one such meeting, Mulayam is said to have told his granddaughters that their father was very stubborn. Akhilesh laughed when this was conveyed to him and then retorted, “Guess who I got the stubborn trait from.” Touché.
The Truce that Nearly Happened
In early January, soon after Akhilesh had taken over the Samajwadi Party from under his father, Mulayam Singh made a trip to Delhi to plead his case before the Election Commission. According to the local media, perhaps overtaken by a sense of nostalgia, an emotional CM decided to reach out to his father and had planned to receive Mulayam at the airport along with his wife Dimple. But the minute Akhilesh heard that his old bête-noir Amar Singh was also on the same flight as his father, he abandoned all such plans. Oh dear!
The Benign Uncles
Much is being made about the influence of the “wicked” Uncles in young Akhilesh’s life — from Shivpal Chacha (Uncle) to Amar Singh Uncle. But there is also the role of the benign Uncles. Everyone knows that it is yet another Uncle, Ram Gopal Yadav who has been propping up Akhilesh to take control of the party. It was also Ram Gopal Yadav, who had suggested that Akhilesh be made Chief Minister soon after the 2012 Assembly win. At the time, Mulayam was apparently in two minds, and according to some sources, had even deputed Azam Khan to propose his name at the party convention. Getting wind of this, Ram Gopal is said to have taken the mike and announced before all the delegates that now Azam Khan will propose Akhilesh’s name as the next Chief Minister, thereby leaving no room for speculation, or a conspiracy.
But there is also another Uncle who has had a much larger impact in shaping Akhilesh’s political career and that is the late Socialist leader Janeswar Mishra. It was Janeswar Mishra who pushed Akhilesh towards politics and promoted him within the party, down to accompany him when he filed his nominations for his first election, to ensuring he became state party president in 2009. The CM acknowledges his role and that is why almost all the projects undertaken by him go under the name of Janeswar Mishra Trust or Janeswar Mishra Park, and so on. Perhaps this is also one reason why Akhilesh found it much easier to rebel against his father with a clean conscience, because as Akhilesh’s supporters point out, politically, the father has not helped him as much as Janeswar Mishra did.