It was meant to be a show of harmony in the Samajwadi Party and a test of the cohesion of the Janata Parivar ahead of the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, but the party’s silver jubilee celebrations in Lucknow turned into yet another stage for the verbal war and taunts between Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his uncle Shivpal Yadav. As the fissures in the ruling Yadav family came out in the open, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad, who is also Mr. Shivpal Yadav's in-law, stepped in to damage control, by attempting to bring the two leaders together on stage, and declared that there no were differences in the SP. Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, though delivering a long speech on the political struggle of his party, however, kept silent on the fresh display of antagonism by his son and brother.
Besides Mr. Prasad, the event was attended by former Prime Minister H.D Deve Gowda, RLD chief Ajit Singh, Indian National Lok Dal leader Abhay Chautala, Janata Dal (United)’s Sharad Yadav and noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani, in what is seen as an attempt to forge a Bihar-like Mahagathbandhan before the 2017 polls, and also build up a collective opposition for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
In an indication that the acrimony between them was far from over, Mr. Shivpal Yadav ignored all subtleties to remind his nephew that the latter had simply "inherited” the political legacy from his father, Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav, whereas he had struggled for the party. “Some people get things due to their fate but others who toil hard all their lives get nothing. Sycophants are getting all the benefits of the government, those who spilled blood got nothing.”
In an emotion-packed address, Mr. Shivpal Yadav, who has been in collision course with his nephew, also asserted he did not aspire for the CM post, but was ready to “sacrifice anything” for the party and leader Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav, and face any amount of “insult”.
“I ask popular CM Akhilesh Yadav ji and all Samajwadis, how much sacrifice do you need from me? If they want blood, I’m even ready to give you blood… How many times will you humiliate me? You can insult me as much as you want."
Sacked as a Minister recently, Mr. Shivpal Yadav, who appeared clearly bitter, emphasised his contributions in building the SP over the years and compared the “good works” done by him as PWD Minister with the achievements of the young CM. Though Mr. Akhilesh Yadav touched Mr. Shivpal Yadav’s feet, when Mr. Prasad tried to join together their hands, and the two shared a light moment in the initial moments of the function, the unease was palpable as Mr. Shivpal Yadav dramatically shoved away from the microphone an SP leader Javed Abidi while he was lauding Mr. Akhilesh Yadav as the true inheritor of Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav’s legacy.
Mr. Akhilesh Yadav shot back at his uncle with equal aggression, stating he was ready to “take any test”.
“I don’t want anybody here to prove their credentials… but I am ready to take any test,” the Chief Minister said, to a loud cheer from his supporters at the sprawling Jnaneshwar Mishra Park.
In an apparent dig at his uncle, who looked on with a straight face, Mr. Akhilesh Yadav said: “As Lohia ji had said, people will understand me only after my death. I say, people will understand only when the SP is ruined forever.”
In controversial Minister Gayatri Prajapati, who Mr. Akhilesh Yadav sacked recently but only to reinstate later, the Chief Minister found another medium to attack his uncle. Turning to Mr. Prajapati, Mr. Akhilesh Yadav said: “Prajapati has presented me the sword. You give me sword and expect me to not use it?"
Mr. Akhilesh could be hinting at his exertion of power in sacking Mr. Shivpal Yadav and other Ministers close to him in their ongoing power struggle. Interestingly, Amar Singh, a close Mulayam aide, was not present at the function.
Mr. Prasad who was on stage tried to ease the tension by attempting to bring together Mr. Akhilesh Yadav and Mr. Shivpal Yadav, and holding their hands. “By brining Shivpal and Akhilesh on one stage, we proved the family is together,” Mr. Prasad said, even as he lavished praise at the Yadav scion declaring him as the present and future CM of Uttar Pradesh.
Stage for Janata Parivar unity
Apart from the resurfacing of the internal tussle in the SP, the event also served stage for the constituents of the erstwhile Janata Parivar to state the need to unite to keep the BJP out in 2017 and also in 2019. The leaders extended their support to the SP in U.P. Mr. Gowda urged the parties to leave aside their differences and unite under the leadership of Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav. “If the SP remains strong in U.P., the opposition will be united in the country.”
Mr. Ajit Singh, the RLD chief, who has real stakes in the possible alliance, urged the parties to leave aside the bickering that comes with electoral alliances and work together to keep put the BJP. “To save democracy, we must unite,” the Jat leader said.
Prasad attacks Modi on NDTV ban
Mr. Prasad also unleashed a scathing attack on the Modi government on various issues including the surgical strikes and the ban on NDTV India, as he extended his full support to the SP in U.P. He said he would not contest in U.P. to ensure there was no split in votes. “All my strength is to ensure a SP win,” he said, saying the BJP would be chased out of U.P. like a pack of “jackals”.
Mr. Akhilesh Yadav said the “2017 U.P. election will decide the future of the country,” as he accused the BJP government at the Centre of creating rifts and dividing society. The SP ideology is the only way to progress and inclusive development, he said.
Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav, as he pitched for a united front, said there was a “need to rethink unitedly” about the nation’s problems. He said his party, formed 25 years ago, had worked for the benefit of all, especially the poor and downtrodden, without any bias. The supremo also spoke out against the atrocities against Muslims, saying such things should not happen under the rule of his party.