Lucknow: With Diwali failing to thaw strained ties in the Mulayam clan, a show of strength is on the cards as Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav takes out his 'Rath Yatra' on 3 November, two days before ruling SP's silver jubilee show organsied by his uncle Shivpal Yadav.
Both Akhilesh and state SP chief Shivpal are busy making preparations for their respective events touted as "show of strength" in political circles ahead of the crucial UP Assembly polls just few months away.
Akhilesh is giving final touches to his 'Vikas Sey Vijay Tak' rath yatra, which will begin from Lucknow on Thursday and pass through Unnao enroute to Kanpur.
A cavalcade of over 5,000 SUVs and trucks will seek to send a message to the party leadership that 43-year-old Akhilesh is the "most acceptable" face of SP.
The pro-CM camp, including expelled SP leaders, is working overtime to make it one of the biggest political shows of recent times, coming close on the heels of Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi's month-long Deoria-to-Delhi 'kisan yatra'.
The second function to mark SP's silver jubilee will be held on 5 November.
Though Mulayam Singh Yadav has sent out invitations to all "secular and like-minded" leaders of various parties like RLD, RJD and JD-U, chances of these leaders making it to the event seemed remote since the date clashes with 'Chhath Puja', a major festival in Bihar.
Akhilesh, who ruled out parting ways with Samajwadi Party in the wake of the unprecedented family feud, has said he will participate in the silver jubilee event, though a large number of his loyalists are likely to boycott the show in view of the strife in the party.
Breaking away from the established family tradition this year, SP patriarch Mulayam did not go to his native village Saifai to celebrate the festival as he has been doing for decades. He remained in Lucknow and met party workers at his residence. His office cited ill health as the reason.
Akhilesh, however, went to Saifai on Diwali eve, met his uncles, expelled SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav and Rajpal Yadav, and also visited his aunt. Only after the chief minister returned to Lucknow, Shivpal left for Saifai following a meeting with Mulayam.
According to SP sources, supporters of Akhilesh are burning the midnight oil to make the rath yatra a grand success.
"It will be a show of strength...We want to show Netaji (Mulayam) that Akhilesh bhaiya is the most popular leader in the party," said an ardent CM loyalist.
During the yatra, dozens of roadside meetings and a few rallies would be held at different places between the two districts, another SP leader said.
The state capital is already splashed with colourful posters, banners and hoardings even as finishing touches are being given to the hi-tech bright red 'rath' having a cabin, a collapsible stage, video screen, Wi-Fi and hotline, besides top class acoustic facilities.
Akhilesh decided to embark on the yatra solo, saying he could not wait longer for a green signal from his father as his political opponents had already hit the roads to woo the electorate.
SP's rivals are trying to cash in on the feud in the Yadav family ahead of the polls and through the yatra the CM would try to send across the message that he was in the driver's seat, notwithstanding all the hue and cry within the party.
The virtual showdown between the father-son duo came to the fore with Akhilesh calling a meeting of party legislators a day ahead of the one convened by Mulayam.
Akhilesh sacked his uncle Shivpal and three others from his Cabinet and in a tit-for-tat action, Shivpal on instructions from Mulayam expelled pro-Akhilesh SP MP Ramgopal Yadav from the party for six years. Ramgopal is another uncle of Akhilesh.
As loyalties appeared divided between various members of the Yadav clan, Akhilesh has made it clear that he was in no mood for a rapprochement by keeping away from two crucial meetings--one of the party's district chiefs and the other of the SP's state executive--despite an invitation from Shivpal.
On the other hand, Mulayam refused to relent when senior party leaders, including Rajya Sabha MPs Beni Prasad Verma and Naresh Agarwal, Speaker Mata Prasad Pandey, and party vice-president Kiranmoy Nanda, met him to douse the flames.
The Akhilesh camp also suffered a jolt with Shivpal sacking heads of various front organisations and soon filling up top vacancies in the SP's youth wings, effectively slamming the door on the re-entry of Akhilesh's close associates.
Akhilesh has asked the party's youth leaders not to waste any more time and take a plunge into the upcoming electoral battle.
"We need to reach out to the people in all corners of the state with the achievements of the government over the past four-and-a-half years," he told his supporters who had assembled at his official residence here to greet him on Diwali.