When the House adjourned for lunch on Monday, Mulayam Singh Yadav rose from his seat to head out, only to find nephews Dharmendra and Akshay ambling down the aisle and touching his feet. Behind them was daughter-in-law Dimple. To an onlooker, this made a happy family frame.
But this foursome is also the entire Samajwadi Party in Lok Sabha, down from 22 in the 15th Lok Sabha where it was the third largest party, and from 36 in the 14th House, its best showing till date.
Only Mulayam and his family made it this time — the SP leader gave up Mainpuri and retained Azamgarh, Dimple Yadav held on to Kannauj, Dharmendra Yadav to Badaun while 27-year-old Akshay Yadav, son of Ram Gopal Yadav, scored on debut from Firozabad.
Monday was one of those rare days this session when all four were seen chatting together, pointing at what appeared to be the list of business for the day which included discussions on the need to have stringent legislation to check atrocities against women and children, and the need to evolve an effective mechanism to tackle communal violence.
Last Friday, when Satyapal Singh, former Mumbai police chief and now BJP MP from Baghpat, drew the attention of the House on the need to correct the price fixation mechanism for sugarcane and began speaking on the situation in Uttar Pradesh, Dimple looked around. Her husband’s government was being targeted and her father-in-law, brothers-in-law were not around to counter the charges. So she took quiet notes as the BJP MP went on.
A day earlier, while speaking on rising crimes against women and children, she was repeatedly obstructed by the BJP when she said Uttar Pradesh had launched a women’s power helpline. Anurag Singh Thakur and she had an exchange which prompted the Speaker to say “no cross-talk please, you address the chair, this is not going on record”.
Dimple made a spirited defence of the UP government: “This has worked in UP. The number of complaints that were registered were 2,46,110. Of this, 2,15,240 cases were solved.” She quoted Robert Frost to underline that “all of us here have promises to keep”.
But father-in-law Mulayam Singh Yadav no longer appears to be his feisty self. There was a brief glimpse though when on July 15, he led a walkout over the failure of the House to condemn Israeli strikes on Gaza. He cuts a rather lonely figure, sharing his front-row seat with BJD’s Bhartruhari Mahtab who sits to his left. Across the aisle to his right is AIADMK’s M Thambidurai. On most days, when he can’t hear above the din, Mulayam leans back to let one of his nephews do the explaining.
Dharmendra follows him like a shadow, carrying a black bag and moving behind Mulayam each time he steps out of the House. He is now the SP mainstay in the House, actively participating in discussions, raising questions and speaking on issues ranging from price rise to the UPSC format to jobs for youth. Elected thrice to Lok Sabha, the 35-year-old is a post-graduate in political science and has a law degree.
A month ago, when he made special mention of the row over the UPSC format and was being interrupted, Dharmendra sought protection of the chair. This prompted the Speaker to gently remind him: “You are speaking very well, I know you are a good orator but your three minutes are up.”
Akshay Yadav, the youngest of the four SP members, made his first speech during a discussion on the Railway Budget. “This is my maiden speech, please forgive me if I make a mistake. People had high hopes from this budget but it has turned out to be the opposite. The fare has been hiked before the budget. If you go by population, Uttar Pradesh is the largest state but it has got nothing from this budget…
“If you tell this NDA government about anything, it blames the UPA for the present. People don’t want to know which came first, the egg or the chicken… People only want promises made to them fulfilled. The UP government has done whatever it promised.”
The utterance about his cousin’s government keeping its promise led to an uproar but Dharmendra stood to Akshay’s defence, turning to the Speaker:
“Madam, the speech cannot be interrupted.” But it was. After all, the party count is down to four, its clout even less.