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UP Election 2017: Mapping the Shivpal saga, lone journey of Mulayam Singh Yadav's faithful ally

He was the most powerful minister in Uttar Pradesh after Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, and he kept that position for a little more than four years. His choice prevailed in the appointments made in the lower bureaucracy, state police and at least half a dozen departments. He was the name to reckon with when it came to getting things done.

This was Shivpal Yadav, the once-powerful politician of Samajwadi Party who represented whatever the party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav stood for. Shivpal was, and continues to be, the undisputed ally of Mulayam for decades. He was the second most powerful man in SP during the Mulayam era.

But this equation started changing in the summer of 2016. As Akhilesh Yadav started finding his own space and made tentative efforts to assert his position, Shivpal was the first to feel the impact. He was forced to comment at a public gathering in Etawah in July that he was unhappy with some elements in the Government who were indulging in anti-social and anti-party activities. And then started a series of events that culminated in the formal transition of the party’s control into Akhilesh’s hands, and left Shivpal with nothing but a rueful recollection of what he had done for brother Mulayam, the party and nephew Akhilesh.

File image of Shivpal Yadav. PTI

File image of Shivpal Yadav. PTI

Sources in the family and the party say Shivpal was the one who shaped Akhilesh’s education and political career. Locals in Etawah and especially in Saifai remember that Mulayam used to keep awfully busy in the years of 70s and 80s. Akhilesh was very young when Mulayam's wife was struck with a serious ailment and rendered permanently unresponsive. That was the time when Shivpal came forward to take care of the little son. Shivpal’s wife Sarla Devi is known to have brought up Akhilesh like her own son and insiders say she used to give pocket money to Akhilesh till some years ago.

The credit for sending Akhilesh to study abroad is also given to Shivpal since Mulayam did not exactly like this idea. Likewise, Shivpal is also credited with facilitating Akhilesh’s marriage with Dimple. When a call was taken to introduce Akhilesh into mainstream politics, it was Shivpal’s suggestion to field him from Kannauj, thereafter Mulayam quit from there and Akhilesh won the subsequent by-election.

More recently, Shivpal is also said to have guided Akhilesh during the highly successful cycle yatra as part of 2012 Assembly election campaign. He was seen at every major stopover during the campaign, guiding the young workers and others who formed part of the rally.

Shivpal will turn 62 in coming April. He had done his early schooling in Mainpuri and graduated from a college in Etawah. He got married in 1981 and has two children - elder daughter Anubha Yadav is a medical practitioner by profession and son Aditya Yadav is the chairman of the Uttar Pradesh Cooperative Federation.

Shivpal’s initiation into UP politics was in the early 1980s when, guided by Mulayam, he used to follow him and assist him wherever and whenever required. Shivpal is known to old timers in the media and bureaucracy as always being in Mulayam’s shadow, following him wherever the latter went on political or social commitments. They recall that the responsibility of crowd management, travel arrangements and ensuring hospitality was usually given to Shivpal.

But Shivpal gathered his strength from being part of the cooperative movement in the state. Mulayam’s political career had started taking shape around 1967 after he came under the influence of Ram Manohar Lohia. In the years between 1967 and 1977 Mulayam led several agitations and campaigns favouring farmers and labourers, and called upon the people to get united to raise their demands. This is how his interest got focussed towards the cooperative movement.

In 1977 when Mulayam became a minister in Uttar Pradesh for the first time, he chose the portfolio of Cooperatives and later initiated several reforms in this sector. That was the time when Shivpal really got down to some serious work, organising people to constitute cooperative societies, hold elections, decide on office bearers and other related work. Initially this kind of work was confined to some districts around Etawah, but subsequently the movement spread all over the state. Shivpal’s contribution in strengthening the cooperative movement is what gave him the organisational skills to which Mulayam referred repeatedly during the recent intra-family dispute involving Shivpal and Akhilesh. These skills included identifying the right people with dependable loyalty, organizing such people at the district and village levels in the form of cooperative societies, taking care of dissidents and winning them over, getting such loyal people into the system especially at the block, tehsil and district levels, and settling disputes that arose during the course of such work. This helped Shivpal become a solid dependable ally to Mulayam. He too had started organizing rallies and protest gatherings and had frequent run-ins with the law.

In the years preceding the Emergency and during this period (1975-1977), Shivpal was the man who served as eyes and ears to Mulayam, as the latter got more deeply involved in the then anti-Congress politics in north India. Shivpal’s organizational skills helped him not only evade arrest in the pre-Emergency crackdown, but also shielded Mulayam on several occasions.

Gaining strength in the cooperative sector, it was easy for him to get elected as president of the Etawah district cooperative bank in 1988. Shivpal contested the Assembly election for the first time in 1996 from Jaswantnagar, the seat from where Mulayam had traditionally been contesting since 1967. Shivpal has won from the seat in the subsequent Assembly elections (2002, 2007 and 2012) as well.

In 2009, he was named president of the party’s state unit and also appointed as the leader of the opposition. In 2012, when the Samajwadi Party formed the Government, Shivpal Yadav was appointed a cabinet minister for the departments of irrigation and PWD.

Not known to be very articulate in speeches or giving statements, he is widely regarded as a practical man who helped people get their work done. In Lucknow and elsewhere, there is no dearth of government employees, contractors, media persons, businessmen and so on who have been helped by Shivpal at crucial moments. For them he remains a symbol of old-school loyalty who never bothered about his image – whether it comes to batting for an alliance with Qaumi Ekta Dal or suggesting to engineers of his department that even while making money they should think about doing some work, or patronising people whose integrity was questioned by many.

Shivpal’s supporters are a frustrated lot now. Within few months, their leader not only lost his ministerial berth, he also lost the presidentship of the state unit of the Samajwadi Party, and all the powers these two positions brought with them. He now has no say in the government, in the party, in the selection of candidates, in the campaign management or even in putting forth the official views of the party. He has been given the party ticket to contest from Jaswantnagar even though he had shown his reluctance to contest this time.

As the SP moves ahead with the new alliance, the space for Shivpal has shrunk even more. But he is trying to reach out to the faithful in Etawah. As he said recently, it is a dharm yudh (crusade) in which truth will prevail in the end.

Updated Date: Feb 04, 2017 13:21 PM

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