LUCKNOW: Ending a brief hiatus in his heaving, messy contest for power with Akhilesh Yadav, Mulayam Singh has returned to proving that he will be anything but the benevolent father assisting his son’s bid for re-election. Hours after Akhilesh Yadav, who is Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, commemorated his alliance with the Congress with a road-show in Lucknow, Mulayam Singh issued a series of threats: that he will not campaign for the partnership, that party workers will be encouraged to diss the collaboration, and that the tie-up will be inimical for the Samajwadi Party, in which his controlling interest was recently trimmed back considerably.
“The Samajwadi Party is completely capable of fighting elections alone. When we did that, we formed the government with a majority. So this was not needed. I am completely against this alliance, I won’t campaign,” said Mulayam Singh, 77. Listed high on his son’s roster of top campaigners, he could serve as an important vote-puller especially among older men.
A few weeks ago, Akhilesh Yadav, backed by the signatures of thousands of party members, was recognized legally as the leader of the political outfit, defeating his father for the rights to use the Samajwadi name and symbol of the cycle. The Election Commission’s verdict came after months of Mualyam Singh, egged on by younger brother Shivpal Yadav, criticising and undermining Akhilesh Yadav, to whom they allowed no part in crucial decisions like the selection of candidates for the election that begins next month. An alliance with the Congress, proclaimed by Akhilesh Yadav as a possible game-changer because it would consolidate the significant 18% Muslim vote in the state, was trashed.
Finally, the 43-year-old Chief Minister, coached by another uncle, Ram Gopal Yadav, went nuclear, announcing his own candidates, lifting the title of Samajwadi President from his father for himself, and signing on the Congress as junior partner. Mulayam Singh, he announced, would serve as Samajwadi mentor, reduced to an annexure for the party he founded. A sullen father then chose not to stand by his son as he revealed the party’s manifesto, ignoring last-minute appeals sent to him from the stage by party leaders seated there.
Akhilesh Yadav’s political treaty with the Congress has not been without complications – the deal nearly sunk without a trace over how many of Uttar Pradesh’s 403 seats the Congress, greatly enervated in recent years, should be allowed. 105 was the final decision. But Raebareli and Amethi, the political zip code of the Gandhi family, remains a stress point, with both sides wanting to contest the bulk of the 10 seats. And yesterday, Rahul Gandhi was less than flattering when asked to assess Akhilesh Yadav’s performance in office