Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav walked over this morning from his Lucknow home to meet his estranged father Mulayam Singh Yadav next door – the houses are interconnected – and the two are huddled together in a meeting being watched closely for signs of a reconciliation. At the last such meeting between father and son, neither had yielded ground.
But today’s meeting comes after a significant climbdown by Mulayam Singh, who said on Monday evening that, “Akhilesh will be the Chief Minister after the election, there is no confusion about it.” He also said earlier in the day that “there is no dispute between my son and I.”
Amid a bitter tussle for control of the party, Mulayam Singh has earlier asserted several times that only he will decide who will be the Chief Minister if the Samajwadi Party is re-elected in UP, where assembly elections will be held in seven phases from next month.
There is another major difference today – Mulayam Singh’s brother Shivpal Yadav and close aide Amar Singh are not present. Akhilesh Yadav’s rebellion against his father is constructed around a demand that Shivpal and Amar Singh be removed from decision making; the young Chief Minister accuses them of instigating Mulayam Singh against him. Mulayam Singh has so far not indicated that he could meet his son’s demand on his two associates.
On Akhilesh Yadav’s side is another uncle Ram Gopal Yadav, who is accused by the Mulayam Singh camp of misguiding the son. Ram Gopal has spearheaded Akhilesh’s solo campaign, calling a party meeting on January 1 in which the Chief Minister was declared Samajwadi Party president instead of his father. He also carried to the Election Commission six boxes of documents to prove that Akhilesh commands the loyalty of most party leaders and lawmakers and so is the real leader of the Samajwadi Party and must be assigned the party’s “cycle” symbol to contest the UP elections.
As Mulayam Singh, who too met the Election Commission to stake claim to the party symbol on Monday, declared that there was no rift with his son, Ram Gopal urged the poll panel to take a quick decision on which faction would get the “cycle,” indicating that Team Akhilesh is no mood to bend.
To display that the party backs him, Akhilesh Yadav has held a series of meetings attended by the vast majority of his party’s legislators and top leaders. Their signatures, pledging allegiance to him, have been furnished to the Election Commission to back his claim to the party symbol, the cycle. Mulayam Singh has filed his own petition, alleging that as the founder, the cycle belongs with him. The easy recall of the symbol among voters makes it election gold.
The Yadavs have danced around a compromise for weeks, only to circle back to their points of dispute. But for now, Mulayam Singh’s remarks will allow his party to wonder anew if his son and he will find a way to ride the cycle in tandem