Samajwadi Party crisis: Mulayam may have announced truce, but expect fresh hostilities soon

The Yadav family drama is not over yet. The patriarch, Mulayam Singh, may have announced truce, but it does not mean cessation of hostilities. As the drama unfolds — we are not using the past tense yet — through tit-for-tat sackings, conspiracy theories, letter attacks and stories on the topsy-turvy equations within the family, and gets more ruthless at every turn, expect savage sniper attacks from warring Akhilesh and Shivpal camps on each other in the coming days. Family feuds, particularly in ruling families, can be terribly messy, vicious and bloody.

Shivpal Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav. File photo.

Shivpal Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav. File photo.

So what do we have after days of public bickering and aggressive posturing by rival camps in the Mulayam clan? Here are the takeaways:

Netaji stands reduced

It is not often in a personality-centric party that the authority of the leader is openly challenged by an insider. Yes, Akhilesh was invoking father Mulayam in all addresses to his supporters in the last few days, but the hint of a rebellion was hard to miss. The role of Sadhna Gupta, the second wife of the family patriarch and a touchy topic for the latter, was raised by party MLC Udayveer Singh known to be close to the chief minister in his letter. The role of senior leader Amar Singh, again someone close to Mulayam, in the family turbulence was put to severe questioning. The sacking of Shivpal from the ministry was the biggest hit the SP supremo had to take. This, despite his open support for his brother. His word was no more the absolute command, Akhilesh showed it to him. Netaji may still have the stature but his aura has dimmed significantly.

Akhilesh out of the shadow

In a state full of political heavyweights, including his father, Akhilesh is far from being counted as one. But he needed to come out of Mulayam’s shadow at some point to assert his own identity. It did his image no good when political rivals said Uttar Pradesh was ruled by four chief ministers, all of whom were family elders. It didn’t help that the bureaucracy stayed divided along loyalty to different family members with private interests of their own. Ultimately he had to face the flak – Mulayam himself had criticised him in public more than once – for his failure to deliver good governance. It’s finally family intrigue that put him in the revolt mode and he used it well to make his political weight felt.

He showed no signs of being intimidated by Mulayam. That his supporters were confident enough to chant slogans against senior Samajwadi Party leaders and back him to the hilt till the end could be a proof that he has built his own independent support base already and is ready to move out of the shadow of his father. He is no heavyweight yet, but he has made himself an important power centre in the party.

Game of thrones to continue

Intense family feuds like this rarely have happy endings. History stands testimony to this. Mulayam may have ensured peace, but by all indications it would be temporary. All players are strong and enjoy equal spheres of influence. A split in the Samajwadi Party may not be on the cards immediately but it’s a distinct possibility after Mulayam retires. With the leadership issue undecided, the party may collapse under the weight of conflicting personal egos and in-house intrigue. The Samajwadi Party chief has his task cut out. He has to identify the leader now and stand by him till the turbulence is over. It won’t be easy but that’s the only way out to save the party.

Till he does that expect more gunfire from both sides and more family dirty linen being washed in public.

Updated Date: Oct 26, 2016 13:55 PM

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