The long queue of cadres at the Samajwadi Party headquarters in Lucknow swiftly turned jubilant as soon as SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav stepped down from his car. Donning the symbolic red Samajwadi cap and traditional dhoti-kurta, Mulayam did not forget to wave and acknowledge the greetings of his party men. The 81-year-old former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and erstwhile defence minister of India has once again become active in the politics of the poll-bound state, and is preparing SP workers while trying to bridge the gap between his son and his brother to help the party get back to power next year.
Despite being unwell, Mulayam has been spending a significant amount of time at the SP headquarters recently. Fondly called ‘Neta ji’ in UP politics, he has a special focus on the youth, women, apart from trying to bring his brother Shivpal and son Akhilesh together. He has also stated that if required, he would not shy away from campaigning for the Samajwadi Party despite his health and age-related issues. Highly placed sources in the SP reveal that the party patriarch is as much active at the front as he is behind the scenes.
Mulayam, who is also called ‘Dharti Putra’ (son of the soil) by party leaders, was a well-known wrestler during his youth. However, he later went on to become a teacher. He contested polls for the first time in 1967 from the Jaswantnagar assembly seat, which is now held by his younger brother Shivpal Yadav. After this, he won elections from this constituency several times and became the cooperative minister during the Janata Party regime. Senior SP leaders also say that when Mulayam was rising and the Congress was a big party, many Congress leaders often referred to him as ‘Kal Ka Chokra’ (novice). But none of them knew that the same young man would go on to become the defence minister of the world’s largest democracy one day.
After having been the CM of Uttar Pradesh several times and a union minister, Mulayam Singh Yadav is back at the SP office. But is all this activity just to enthuse workers ahead of the 2022 UP polls, or is there a message for his son and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav? No matter what SP workers and party leaders say, observers feel that Mulayam read the writing on the wall and is keen to end the feud between Akhilesh and Shivpal before the crucial elections.
Experts say this won’t guarantee a clean sweep for the Samajwadi Party, but it will definitely increase the firepower of the party significantly and improve its position. Speaking to News18, political commentator Ratan Mani Lal said, “I feel at this point of his life, his biggest achievement would be to see Shivpal and Akhilesh together again. He may not have said this clearly, but he has indicated it many times that his wish now is to see Shivpal and Akhilesh united and to strengthen the Samajwadi movement. Now when we talk about the Samajwadi movement and not Samajwadi Party, it means that some basic tenets of socialism have to be understood by both Akhilesh and Shivpal: that they both have common interests, so why are they separate?" This is a very old lesson by Mulayam Singh Yadav, which he wants Akhilesh to understand now rather than Shivpal, he said.
“Mulayam might be taking pathshala and class. Ostensibly it is for everyone, but he wants this lesson to go home to Akhilesh because Mulayam knows that Shivpal is on a weak wicket. Even after contesting two or three elections, Shivpal wasn’t able to achieve anything. At the same time, Akhilesh also hasn’t achieved anything as he lacks managerial and tactical support. The lesson that MSY wants to give is for Akhilesh primarily as it would be strengthening Akhilesh only. Now Shivpal it seems has also given up hopes of becoming CM as long as Akhilesh is alive. Also, age will be against him in the next five years. In such a scenario, the future lies with Akhilesh and that is why it seems Mulayam’s lessons and teachings are directed towards Akhilesh in an oblique manner,” said Lal.
On the question of possible gains for SP when Shivpal and Akhilesh come together, he said, “There has been no substantial performance by Shivpal since 2017, but if both Shivpal and Akhilesh come together then the firepower of Samajwadi Party will shoot up. This is what Mulayam realises but Akhilesh fails to see. MSY has realised that Akhilesh on his own might not perform that well in comparison to when Akhilesh and Shivpal come together. If MSY succeeds in bringing together his son and brother then the Samajwadi Party stands a better chance of emerging as a much stronger number 2 party.”
If sources in Samajwadi Party are to be believed then very soon Shivpal and Akhilesh may get reunited. It may take place on Mulayam Singh Yadav’s birthday which is on November 22, when the entire Yadav clan would come together to wish Neta ji a very happy birthday.
People who have been associated with Mulayam Singh Yadav reveal that he eats, sleeps and thinks of politics all the time, doesn’t matter where he is. Mulayam, who is known for his ‘dhobi pachad’ slam in politics, had met his younger brother Shivpal Yadav in Delhi. The meeting lasted for about an hour and a half and, as per sources, things were worked out for a smooth ghar wapsi (return) of Shivpal. Sources also say that after this meeting, Akhilesh Yadav has spoken to uncle Shivpal over the phone.
However, if the family feud continues, then things may not remain rosy for the SP in its own bastions in the 2022 UP assembly polls. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Ram Gopal Yadav from SP fielded his son from the Firozabad seat and stated that Shivpal Yadav’s party didn’t even have 500 votes. After this Shivpal fielded his candidate, due to which Ram Gopal’s son and Shivpal’s nephew Akshay lost the contest.
The SP sources also give credit to Mulayam for the recent backdoor entry of Sigbatullah Ansari, brother of jailed gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari. Sources say that Mulayam is well aware of the clout that the Ansari family enjoys in the Purvanchal region and also that in today’s time winnability is all that matters. Around five years ago when the Ansari family had almost joined the party at the behest of Shivpal Yadav, Akhilesh had stopped them. It seems now that Mulayam has made Akhilesh understand that what matters the most in politics is victory. If everything goes well, then the contest between the BJP and SP in the 2022 polls would be interesting.
Akhilesh, meanwhile, is also making sure that his father’s colleagues are brought back into the party. Ambika Chaudhary, a close aide of Mulayam, returned to the SP last week in the presence of Akhilesh. He had quit the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in June this year. Earlier, Purvanchal leader Narad Rai had also joined the SP. There was a time when these leaders had abandoned the Samajwadi Party.