Lucknow: Former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and founder of the Samajwadi Party (SP) Mulayam Singh Yadav continues to baffle his own party leaders and political observers alike by repeatedly making statements that can benefit the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) and embarrass his son and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav.
So is the wily Yadav chieftain ageing and his memory fading, as claimed recently by former Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi, or is the wrestler-turned-politician avenging his marginalisation in a party he raised from scratch 27 years back?
While the jury is out on Yadav following his recent remarks, one thing is certain that his musings over the past few days have caused consternation within his party, leaving the office bearers in a state of discomfort.
On the last day of the 16th Lok Sabha on February 13, the SP patriarch not only blessed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a second term in office, but also admitted on the floor of the House that the entire Opposition put together was not in a position to cobble together a majority of their own.
“I congratulate the Prime Minister because he has tried to take everybody along. I want to say that all members must win and come again, and Narendra Modi should become the Prime Minister again,” Yadav had said.
On Thursday, the veteran politician told SP workers at the party headquarters on Vikramaditya Marg here that “people inside were out to finish the party.”
Continuing with his tirade against Akhilesh, Yadav said the party had already lost the battle of the hustings as the SP had ceded 38 seats to Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), 3 to the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) and 2 to the Congress.
The three-time Uttar Pradesh former Chief minister said that when he was at the helm of affairs, he brought the party to power thrice on its own steam. Had the SP fought alone again this time, it would have produced better results, Yadav said.
Last month, Akhilesh and Mayawati announced their alliance in a joint press conference. In the list of seats released on Thursday, the Samajwadi Party was assigned 37 seats, one less than the BSP’s 38.
Yadav, who was bitterly opposed to the SP’s alliance with the Congress before the 2017 Assembly polls, mused that the party had yielded too much space to one-time arch political foe – Mayawati’s BSP.
Yadav’s close aides told IANS that ‘Neta ji,’ as he is known in his party, has not forgotten the humiliation heaped on him in the winter of 2016, when his son and the then Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh literally showed him the door by dethroning him as SP President.
“He has turned old but still has the same political acumen that he is famous for,” said a person close to Yadav on condition of anonymity.
He admitted that the former Union Defence Minister was also upset at being “completely ignored” during the pre-alliance negotiations and due to the fact that he had minimal say in the seat allocation discussions between the SP and the BSP.
A former minister said Yadav’s public outbursts were also because he wanted to have a say in “at least the ticket distribution process.”
On Thursday, Yadav openly asked the party workers to give him the names of the leaders they thought should be fielded. He also said that Akhilesh lacked experience because of which the BJP had a “huge leverage against its political opponents” in the run up to the Lok Sabha polls.
He also sided with his estranged younger brother Shivpal Singh Yadav. Edged out in the power struggle and the ensuing family feud, former SP heavyweight Shivpal has now floated his own party, the Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (PSP), which apparently enjoys Yadav’s covert sympathy.
Informed sources said while Shivpal would field candidates on most seats, his focus would be only on two constituencies – Firozabad from where Ram Gopal Yadav’s son Akshay Yadav is an MP, and Kannauj from where Dimple Yadav, wife of Akhilesh, is likely to seek a second term.
Yadav had only campaigned for Shivpal, Parasnath Yadav and his daughter-in-law during the 2017 Assembly polls when the SP returned with disastrous results.
This time, said a member of the old guard, Yadav is not only angry, but also vocal. “He is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the SP-BSP alliance does not take off, even if it means that the BJP is benefited” he informed.
Many feel that Yadav has neither forgotten the bitter animosity with Mayawati, who is pursuing a case against him in the Supreme Court, nor has he forgiven Akhilesh for sidelining him.