By declaring his wife and former Member of Parliament, Dimple Yadav, as the party candidate from Mainpuri in the upcoming Lok Sabha bypoll on December 5, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav has done his best to save his bastion from a resilient Bharatiya Janata Party, which already beat the SP in the Azamgarh and Rampur bypolls.
This election was necessitated after the death of party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav who won the Mainpuri seat four times. The Yadav-dominated seat has been held by the SP since it was formed in 1992.
It is not just the resurgent ruling party, keen on making inroads into the SP’s traditional vote bank, that is troubling Mr. Yadav. He is also facing a fractious family and perhaps that’s the reason he has decided to field his wife -- not just to save the seat for the party, but also to put his own stamp on his father’s legacy within the Yadav clan.
Party insiders say it is only the bahu (daughter-in-law) who could have kept the chacha (uncle) in check. They are referring to Shivpal Yadav, Mr. Yadav’s mercurial uncle and the president of the PSP or Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia), who is prone to constantly changing his statements about the SP and its president since being allegedly sidelined after the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.
“The name of Tej Pratap Yadav, the grandnephew of Mulayam Singh, who has represented the Mainpuri seat in the past was in the forefront, but the leadership learnt that a section of the family could scuttle his campaign. With Dimple ji, nobody could take a chance as it will be a direct attack on Netaji’s legacy and amount to political suicide,” said a party leader from the region.
He said this would also remove the possibility of Aparna Yadav, the SP president’s sister-in-law who joined the BJP earlier this year, contesting from the seat. Ms. Aparna Yadav met the State BJP president Bhupendra Chaudhary at his residence on Thursday, leading to speculation of her contesting on a BJP ticket. “Nobody in the family can take on Akhilesh directly, at least in the first election after Netaji’s demise,” added the leader.
Sources in the BJP said that Mr. Shivpal Yadav is being propped up to turn his newly formed Yadukul Punarjagran Mission, a Yadav front, into a political outfit before the Lok Sabha polls. While strongman D.P. Yadav is being offered the Budaun seat, Mr. Shivpal Yadav has been asked to pick a seat of his choice within the Yadav belt. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already started his Yadav outreach, beginning with his address at the 10th death anniversary programme of Harmohan Yadav, former president of the Akhil Bharatiya Yadav Mahasabha and a close confidant of Mulayam Singh, whose family members have drifted towards the BJP. Sources close to the PSP said Mr. Shivpal should keep out of the first poll after Mulayam Singh’s death but should make his position clear after that.
SP insiders said that the party president should remember that even his father won the last Mainpuri poll by a margin of 97,000 votes -- a drop of more than 10% in comparison to the previous election. All those lost votes went to the BJP candidate Prem Singh Shakya, who garnered 44% of the total vote polled.
Mainpuri has 17.4 lakh voters, out of which around seven lakh are Yadavs. The Shakyas, an OBC caste like the Yadavs, constitute around three lakh votes. As the BJP once again seems keen to pick a Shakya candidate for the seat, Mr. Yadav has appointed a Shakya as the district president of the party unit, just weeks before the bypoll. “Mulayam Singh used to get votes across caste lines. It remains to be seen whether his bahu can recreate the magic,” said Mitrapal Yadav, a teacher in neighbouring Shikohabad.
Dimple Yadav’s entry into electoral politics in 2009 started with a setback when she lost from Firozabad to Congress candidate Raj Babbar. At that time too, family politics was held as one of the reasons for her loss. In 2012, she won the Kannauj bypoll after Mr. Yadav vacated the seat to take the Chief Minister’s oath. She returned to the Lok Sabha from Kannauj in 2014, but in 2019, when she was the joint candidate of the SP and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), she was defeated by the BJP’s Subrat Pathak in a close contest.
This is a moment of the reckoning for the Yadav family and it remains to be seen whether the SP president, who doesn’t usually canvas for party candidates in the bypolls, will turn up for his wife. Meanwhile, all eyes are on Mr. Shivpal Yadav, who has promised to lay his cards on the table within the next two or three days.