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In this UP village, meet the Yadav SP chief Mulayam and family listen to

Darshan Singh Yadav, headman of Saifai village, has a formula for Samajwadi Party chief to settle family dispute.

YadavFamilyFeud Updated: Oct 27, 2016 14:24 IST
DK Singh
DK Singh
Hindustan Times
Mulayam Singh Yadav,Akhilesh Yadav,Shivpal Yadav
Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is trying to make peace in his family and party.(PTI)

Guess who could be a mediator in the ongoing standoffbetween Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and his uncle Shivpal Yadav? Darshan Singh Yadav, a village headman.

While Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav hasn’t allowed corporate bigwigs to intervene in his family affairs, party sources say octogenarian Darshan is no ordinary villager.

He is the pradhan of Saifai, Mulayam’s native village in Etawah district, where Mulayam taught in a school before cutting his teeth into politics and becoming an MLA for the first time in 1967.

Last Monday, Darshan met Mulayam along with the SP patriarch’s brother Shivpal and son Akhilesh to mediate a family strife that is threatening to blight the ruling party’s prospects in February-March assembly polls. Later, Akhilesh proudly told his party legislators about his meeting with ‘Pradhanji’, underlining how the famous Yadav clan of UP still looks up to village elders to settle a dispute that has implications for the state’s 21 crore people.

“What is Akhilesh in front of his father? I said to Mulayam, kanpati par ek lagao, theek ho jayaega (punch Akhilesh’ ears and he will be ok),” Darshan told HT, sipping tea at his village square Wednesday evening. “I told him ‘you have fought so many big wars; how could you be worrying about a trifling?”

SP chief’s elder brother Abhay Ram Yadav (L) won’t speak about the crisis in the party but Saifai village headman Darshan Singh Yadav has advice. (DK Singh/ HT photo)

Yadav family feud: For SP, there’s truce in sound bite but not in sight

He also gave a “mouthful” to Akhilesh and Shivpal for creating problems for “Netaji” (as Mulayam Singh is fondly addressed).

“This is all about politics and I have nothing to do with it,” said 81-year-old Darshan, who is the longest-serving pradhan in the state. “I have told them what I felt like and I will not share anything with you. But rest assured, it will be sorted out soon. There is no crisis.”

The pradhan might be underestimating the seriousness of the crisis that could undermine the ruling party’s bid for a second consecutive term in power in 2017. Travel around UP, and you find the family wrangling weighing on everyone’s mind — like Krishna Kumar at Ekdil market near Etawah, who thinks the crisis in the family will be an advantage to the BJP. The young CM enjoys a clean image and has got a following among the youth. The SP — already facing anti-incumbency — can ill-afford a split among its loyal followers.

The crisis has got the entire Saifai riveted to TV screens and newspapers. On Wednesday afternoon, Mulayam’s elder brother Abhay Ram Yadav, father of Badaun MP Dharmendra Yadav, returned from the fields in a chauffeur-driven Fortuner to tend to his 40-odd cattle in his courtyard. “Ask me what happens in our khet (agriculture fileds). I have nothing to say about what is happening in Lucknow,” said a visibly upset Abhay Ram before going indoors.

Intrusive reporters are no stranger here. Arguably the most developed village in the country, Saifai has a university of medical sciences, a post-graduate college, a sports college, a sports auditorium, a law college, a super-specialty hospital and a railway station. It will soon have an international airport.

Yadav family feud: Weakened Samajwadi Party now open to a grand alliance

The who’s who of Bollywood, politics and corporate sector descend here annually for the Saifai Mahotsav. Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was here to attend a tilak ceremony of Mulayam’s grandnephew Tej Pratap, who is a son-in-law of Bihar’s RJD leader Lalu Prasad. Tej Pratap’s house is adjacent to Mulayam’s vacant bungalow, which is guarded by half-a-dozen policemen round the clock.

What makes Darshan so important? Mulayam, in his early days in politics, once drank water offered by a Jatav (a Scheduled caste person). Villagers were up in arms, threatening to ex-communicate him. Darshan then got Mulayam to fry potatoes and ate it. “Then I told my mukhiya (village head) brother that if he wanted to banish Mulayam, I was equally guilty because I ate potatoes cooked by Mulayam. Everybody backed off after that,” recalled a chuckling Darshan, who has been the Saifai village head since 1972.

While Darshan scoffed at the slogan-shouting crowd of Akhilesh-supporters in Lucknow, 260 km west of Saifai, a local youngster serving him tea at his village stall is all praise for the CM. Abhishek Gupta, 23, is keen about a second chief ministerial term for ‘Akhilesh Bhaiyya’, who gave him a shop (worth Rs 15 lakh) in Kisan Bazaar when he called on him last month.

Quipped another villager: “Agar neta banana hai toh apmaan sahana padega (accept humiliation if you want to be a leader).” That was in an apparent reference to how Akhilesh was often publicly upbraided by his father for the way he ran his administration.

The 43-year-old CM has been suggesting how he had to follow his father’s diktat in terms of inducting or sacking his ministers and bureaucrats, but few seem to care about this in his father’s native village where Mulayam is the “only Netaji after Subhas Chandra Bose”.

First Published: Oct 27, 2016 14:06 IST