Akhilesh Yadav is meeting his estranged father Mulayam Singh Yadav in Lucknow this morning, after the latter effected a major climbdown by saying that his son will be chief minister again if the Samjawadi Party wins the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh to be held in seven phases from next month.
“Akhilesh will be the Chief Minister after the election,” said Mulayam Singh on Monday evening, hours after he said “there is no rift with Akhilesh.” Both statements suggested that the 77-year-old has grabbed a line to climb out of the hole he dug by earlier declaring that he alone would decide who would be the Chief Minister if the Samajwadi Party is re-elected.
Over the last few months, Akhilesh Yadav and Mulayam Singh have pulled the party in different directions, each guided by a relative that is distrusted by the other. Mulayam Singh has been flanked by brother Shivpal Yadav, and, more recently, Amar Singh. The young Chief Minister has teamed with Ram Gopal Yadav, his father’s cousin.
Tired of being relegated to a witness in his father’s plan for the election, Akhilesh Yadav on January 1 put the squeeze on by having himself declared the Samajwadi President, the title held by his father. He also declared his own list of candidates to counter that of his father. Later, he reportedly conveyed that he would step down to make way for Mulayam Singh as president after the election, but not before then, because he did not want to risk Shivpal Yadav and Amar Singh making crucial decisions. There has been no indication yet that Mulayam Singh will grant his son’s wish of stripping them of any prominence.
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.