For Akhilesh Yadav, the vikas rath yatra starting November 3, especially the second leg that will take him to Etawah and Mainpuri, will be a test of strength in a family domain that is seen as a stronghold of his uncle Shivpal Yadav, with whom he is engaged in a bitter power struggle. The first leg will take Akhilesh to Kanpur, after which he will return to Lucknow for the party’s silver jubilee celebrations on November 5. The second leg is expected to take off from Kanpur towards Agra, a route that includes the family boroughs of Etawah, Mainpuri, Etah, Firozabad and Kannauj.
For a leader who has tried to focus on development, what remains to be tested is how well he clicks among the party’s core supporters, Yadavs and Muslims. His camp would be worried that the campaign appears to be getting little support from Shivpal.
An MLC said Akhilesh has been able to inherit the legacy of Mulayam and create his “brand in the last five years”. “Yadavs will support him the way they supported Mulayam. But it is still to be seen publicly because Akhilesh has remained under the shadow of his father so far,” he said.
Akhilesh was elected an MP from Kannauj in a byelection in 2000. He won two subsequent elections from the same seat in 2004 and 2009. He also won Firozabad in 2009 and later vacated it for his wife, Dimple, who then lost it to the Congress’s Raj Babbar.
Shivpal, like Mulayam, has been able to stay connected to his core bank of Yadavs. After the differences between Akhilesh and Shivpal surfaced last month, Shivpal went to Etawah to visi the family of BSF jawan Nitin Yadav, killed in J&K by terrorists. Shivpal makes frequent visits and interacts with cooperative bodies.
In his speech at SP state headquarters on Monday, Shivpal had complained that Akhilesh had not included his supporters from Jaswantnagar constituency in Etawah in the state’s executive committee while he was state president.