The Yadav clan seems at it again, pulling each other down in a very public show of disharmony. When Akhilesh Yadav took over as chief minister of UP, there were high hopes that he would bring in a new and more transparent style of governance. But these have been belied, despite the young chief minister making several efforts to contain the old guard. And aiding and abetting in tripping him up is his father and Samajwadi Party supremo, Mulayam Singh Yadav.
What was initially seen as a father-son act of good cop bad cop seems to have gone off script with disastrous results for Akhilesh, who is today being seen as a leader whose writ does not run either in the state or the party. On several occasions, he has had to eat the humble pie and make up with senior leaders who are supported by his father. His father has repeatedly admonished him in public, reminding him of his duties. The latest round of problems has been triggered by Akhilesh, stripping his uncle Shivpal Yadav of all major portfolios. Predictably, this has not gone down well with his father. The state’s top bureaucrat, seen as close to Shivpal, was also removed. Mulayam hit back, removing his son from the post of state party chief, installing his brother in his place. Mulayam’s actions are clearly dictated by political considerations as the SP leader considers his brother a key figure in hammering together strategic alliances in the poll-bound state.
To his credit, Akhilesh did make attempts to bring in clean politics. He refused a merger of gangster Mukhtar Ansari’s party with the SP, something that was pushed by Shivpal. He also sacked two ministers for corruption, both of whom are close to his father.
If Akhilesh can stand his ground now, he will have taken the first step towards establishing himself as a leader in his own right. So far, he has not been able to see his actions through thanks to public rebukes from his father. With the elections coming up, Akhilesh is clearly hoping to take over the leadership of the government and party and project himself as independent of his father’s influence. But past experience shows that the old guard, led by his father, will not take things lying down. For the party, this family feud surfacing again could not have come at a worse time. The other parties in the fray are gearing up for the mother of all battles in the state and the SP will have to sort out its internal wranglings double quick if it does not want to be left far behind.