After the intriguing interval, the storyline appears to have taken an even more dramatic turn in Lucknow: The older generation is seen basking in its de jure authority within the strife-torn Samajwadi party while the younger icon marches ahead with his de facto power indomitably. Perhaps, things are beginning to crystallise. But, at the same time, optics and politics are locked in a mismatch!
Let’s discuss the optics first:
Scene 1: Bhatija Akhilesh visits chacha Shivpal’s residence, bows down humbly to touch the feet of his uncle and aunt and gives a brotherly pat on the back of his cousin. During their ‘chay pe charcha’, both their behaviour and body language look to be in perfect tune with what’s expected from them in a Hindu Undivided Family. They smile and laugh. Genuinely.
“Humey kabhi pataa hi nahi chala ki Akhilesh humaara bhatija hai; wo humaare bete ki tarah hai” (We never considered him as a nephew, we always took him as our son), Shivpal recalls emotionally.
Scene 2: From chacha’s residence on 7, Kalidas Marg, bhatija Akhilesh rushes back to his office, holds an impromptu press conference and announces that he has already sent in his recommendation to the state governor seeking reallocation of portfolios of chacha ji. “My hearty congratulation to the new president of the state unit of the party”, he says.
Scene 3: Patriarch Mulayam Singh, Shivpal, Ramgopal and Akhilesh meet once again later in the evening. They express solidarity and exchange pleasantries. "Let’s face the electorate as one solid force and win the coming elections," they say and resolve to stick together under all circumstances.
Having seen what we saw and heard, let’s also consider the new political realities that emerged from the rosy pleasantries and bitter theatrics simultaneously involving all the major dramatis personae in the narrative:
Fact 1: Akhilesh Yadav remains the Chief Minister. And what’s even more important, like it or not, he shall continue to be the face of the party in the foreseeable future. All his adversaries within the party seem to have reconciled to the fact that it’s Akhilesh – nobody else – who would lead the charge in the run-up to elections.
Fact 2: The young party icon has been made the chairman of the political outfit's state parliamentary board. The parliamentary board sits at the apex of the party structure. And it’s supposed to have the last word on all policy matters.
Fact 3: Akhilesh gets predominance over ticket distribution rights. It’s an important development from the future point of view.
Fact 4: Notwithstanding the fact that he gets as many as 13 portfolios under his belt, chacha Shivpal loses the coveted Public Works Department. The Chief Minister has decided to keep this portfolio to himself. Don’t be surprised if you know that the annual budget of this department outweighs by far the combined fund allocations under the 13 portfolios that the chacha has got.
If you look beyond the otherwise confusing optics, theatrics and politics that has been bedevilling the Yadava clan during the past five days, you would get a feeling that it’s, in fact, the dawn of a new era in the Samajwadi Party. Yes, that’s clear.
Don’t be carried away when you see the ageing patriarch reprimanding his son time and again. And don’t be taken in when you find that he prefers to lean more on the shoulders of his brothers and the likes of Amar Singh. Like any grateful septuagenarian, he loves his family and friends. And he makes no secret about it. But, at the same time, he is not the one to lose focus on the future. And he knows that the future does belong to the young. As always.
This is precisely why he publicly recounted stories of Shivpal’s sacrifice and Amar’s help during his ‘bad time’. And in the same breath, he gave his son a lesson on “Dos and Don’ts”: take your job seriously, learn to give respect to elders, don’t rock the boat and try to win the coming elections first.
Little wonder then that The Times of India said in its headline today: "Akhilesh earns dad’s wrath but has the last laugh in family deal".
True, the Chief Minister did have the last laugh. And he knew that he had his father’s silent blessings to do so.