There is a reason why some news reports and section of people believe that Akhilesh Yadav is just a token chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. There is another reason why many believe that true power rests in the hands of his father Mulayam Singh Yadav.
And even though Mulayam has shown people the reason for this strange power equation in the state many times in the past, he was perhaps trying to show who is boss yet again on Saturday when he said that his brother Shivpal Yadav had warned him against making Akhilesh the CM after the 2012 polls.
He also hinted that Shivpal was probably right and it was because Akhilesh was the CM in 2014 that the Samajwadi Party performed poorly in the Lok Sabha polls. "The defeat in the Lok Sabha polls was proof of this. Who was the chief minister when we lost in 2014 – getting just five seats? Can you even imagine how humiliated I felt? At one time, when I was the chief minister, we got 27 seats. At another instance, our Lok Sabha tally was 39. But how many seats did we get in 2014? Five seats – just five! We were ruined,” Hindustan Times quoted Mulayam as saying.
"If Akhilesh is unhappy with Shivpal because of this (appointment of the latter as the SP state chief), he should remember that people have accepted him as CM because he is my son. He never had any individual standing in politics," The Times of India further quoted Mulayam as saying.
Mulayam has almost never been easy on Akhilesh. Of course, there are rumours that the SP supremo's words against his son were not genuine as they were only meant to placate Shivpal.
But even if some of Mulayam's outbursts against his son were not genuine, one cannot ignore the alarmingly high rate of frequency of all the outbursts. In fact, Mulayam has lashed out at Akhilesh so many times that it almost makes it look like he is the CM's political opponent.
On 15 August, when the ties between Akhilesh and Shivpal had started turning sour over the merger with Mukhtar Ansari's party, QED, Mulayam had made it clear that he was siding with Shivpal and had even warned Akhilesh. "He (Shivpal) is the only one one who listens to me and even he wants to resign, why are they insulting him? If I stand up, this government (UP state government) will feel the heat," an NDTV report had quoted Mulayam as saying.
In December, Mulayam had expelled two of Akhilesh's closest friends, Sunil Singh and Anand Bhadoriya, from the SP, accusing them of anti-party activities. They were, however, reinstated into the party after Shivpal played a role in smoothing over the tension between Mulayam and Akhilesh.
In August last year, Mulayam had admonished his son and others in the government for poor performance and complacency towards preparation for oncoming electoral battles.
The occasion was a huge public meeting in Lucknow to pay homage to veteran socialist leader, the late Janeshwar Mishra, often called as Chhote Lohia (Junior Lohia) by his followers.
Much to the amusement of the gathering and chagrin of the Chief Minister, Mulayam had even snubbed Akhilesh when he found that he was talking to someone else during Mulayam's speech.
Mulayam had not only rebuked Akhilesh for not paying enough attention to what he had been saying, but had remarked repeatedly that ministers, legislators and party workers were losing the plot.
The SP president had also said that he had information about senior leaders and ministers busy in their own work, and that they were not going out among the people. The seniors, he had said, must go out of their "air-conditioned comfort” and meet the people. Otherwise, the party was certain to face defeat in the coming 2017 Assembly elections, he had cautioned.
He had also taken a dig at Akhilesh's penchant for shooting off letters to the Centre on various issues. "It is not enough to write letters and then sit back. One has to pursue the matters with the Centre. Things get done only with a lot of efforts,” Mulayam had said.
In 2014, a former bureaucrat had observed, "Democracy appears to have been converted into a family affair and the chief minister does not seem to be having a free hand in running his own government."
Mulayam had also warned Akhilesh in October 2013 that the party will face "serious consequences" if its leaders did not mend their ways. "The government has made some mistakes. I keep warning them to mend their ways in time before the elections... I would request you (voters) not to judge the party by the government's mistakes," Daily Mail had quoted him as saying.
He had even said in June 2013 that had he been in Akhilesh's place, he would have changed the perception of poor law and order in the state in 15 days. "Had I been in place of Akhilesh, I would have ensured change (in perception) on law and order front in 15 days," Free Press Journal had quoted himas saying.
Even though Akhilesh has shrugged off the matter of Mulayam's constant nagging as harmless scolding by a father, it will be interesting to see if and how he reacts to Mulayam's latest jibe at a time when the SP is facing a massive internal feud.
With inputs from agencies