Shivpal Yadav, the younger brother of Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, is going all out to make his presence felt in the 2019 battle and the presence of ‘Netaji’ at his Diwali puja has left SP chief Akhilesh Yadav worried.
Lucknow: Since the past two years, equations within the Samajwadi Party’s first family have been changing from Diwali to Diwali.
In 2016, when Yadav family tensions over supremacy in the party were building up steadily, Mulayam Singh Yadav and his younger brother Shivpal Yadav skipped the festivities in their native village Sefai, breaking a tradition that is as old as the leaders themselves.
The then chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and his uncle Ram Gopal Yadav did celebrate Diwali in Sefai but the festivities were marked by an undercurrent of unease.
In 2017, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Shivpal Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav again returned to Sefai to celebrate Diwali together and send a strong signal that the feud in the family was over. However, a lack of warmth between Akhilesh Yadav and his estranged uncle Shivpal Yadav was more than visible.
Diwali, this year, was clearly marked by a split in the family. Shivpal Yadav, who has formed his own party - Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (PSP) - and snapped ties with nephew and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, stayed away from the joint family festivities in Sefai and held his own Diwali puja.
Mulayam Singh Yadav, sent a strong message to family members split between the two power centres within the family, by not only staying away from Sefai this year but celebrating Diwali with his younger brother Shivpal.
Mulayam Sing Yadav visited the residence of his brother and the new office of the PSP and performed puja at both the places.
Mulayam Singh Yadav’s younger son Prateek and daughter-in-law Aparna Yadav were also seen with Shivpal Yadav and the young couple did not visit Akhilesh Yadav’s residence on the occasion of the festival of lights. Mulayam Singh Yadav’s second wife was also seen at Shivpal Yadav’s house.
A close friend of the Yadav clan said that Mulayam Singh Yadav was deliberately sending confusing signals to party workers since he did not want the supporters of the two factions to begin confronting each other.
“Netaji (Mulayam) does not want to clear the air by taking sides since that would lead to a direct confrontation between his brother and son. Both have, so far, avoided attacking each other publicly,” said the family friend.
Insiders, however, claim that the Yadav family is also witnessing a vertical split of sorts. While young politicians in the family including the three MPs - Akshay Yadav, Tej Pratap Yadav and Dharmendra Yadav - are supporting Akhilesh Yadav, they have not burnt their bridges with their uncle Shivpal Yadav yet. The MPs are sons of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s cousins and form part of a dozen-strong brigade of young politicians from the extended Yadav family.
“Though these young men avoid being seen in public with Shivpal Yadav, Tej Pratap and Dharmendra continue to maintain cordial relations with him. Akshay Yadav, however, is firmly with Akhilesh Yadav,” said a party leader.
All brothers of Mulayam Singh Yadav have been giving tacit support of Shivpal Yadav but have not spoken against Akhilesh Yadav.
A family relative said that the situation may now change with Shivpal Yadav forming his own party. “Till now it was a feud within the party but now there are two parties and some equations may change again as elections draw close,” he said.
The relative said that Shivpal Yadav enjoys considerable support in central Uttar Pradesh which is the bastion of the Samajwadi Party and the family members may need his support to win back their seats in Ferozabad, Mainpuri and Badaun.
Shivpal Yadav, incidentally, has declared that he would field candidates against all family members except Mulayam Yadav.
If sources are to be believed, Akhilesh Yadav is perturbed over the evolving situation and he knows that before he wins the battle against the BJP, he will have to win one against his uncle Shivpal Yadav.
A number of leaders in SP are also in the wait-and-watch mode. A former Samajwadi MP said, “Shivpal Yadav has started touring the state and getting amazingly good response. The Samajwadi Party is still waiting for the alliance to materialise before it launches the poll campaign. We are waiting to see how things evolve before we take any decisions.”