Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is not new to balancing acts and tackling crises, given the fact that all the members of his extended political family have been close to him.
The fresh crisis is an extension to a long series of such instances. But this one seems to be trickier than ever and has come at a time when the UP assembly election is inching closer.
This time around, Mulayam has to maintain a balance between his brother Shivpal and son Akhilesh.
Shivpal Singh Yadav is dear to Mulayam not only because of their blood relation but also for the role of a close associate that he has played for more than four decades – since the time Akhilesh was not even born.
The root of the problem goes back to 2009 when Mulayam removed Shivpal and appointed Akhilesh as the state unit president of the Samajwadi Party.
The rift widened after Akhilesh steered the party to a spectacular victory in 2012 assembly election after which Mulayam and his cousin Ramgopal Yadav propped up Akhilesh to the chief minister’s chair.
Fresh trouble began when Shivpal tried to forge an alliance with the Quami Ekta Dal (QED) but Akhilesh nixed the merger plan.
QED is headed by former SP MP Afzal Ansari, who is the elder brother of mafia-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari. Akhilesh was adamant on calling off the merger as he was not ready to tolerate criminal elements in the party.
Shivpal also prevailed over Mulayam to get his favourite bureaucrat Deepak Singhal appointed as UP chief secretary. However, Akhilesh sacked him on Tuesday and brought in Rahul Bhatnagar.
In a balancing act, Mulayam elevated Shivpal as the state president which further precipitated the situation.
The only silver lining is that Mulayam wields the power of having the “last word”. Every time a problem occurs, the warring members in the family say that Netaji’s command would be followed.
The big question is how Mulayam will defuse tension and restore order in the family that aspires for a second term?
Though BSP is bleeding, Mayawati is set to intensify attack on the SP’s ‘parivarvaad’ even if Mulayam manages order.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is already poaching into the BSP, is keeping a close eye on the developments. The Congress will also try to regain lost ground by trying to capitalise on the ongoing family feud.