As the SP’s ruling family battled on the dais in full party view at their headquarters on Vikaramaditya Marg, Shashi Kumar Saxena, who sells party paraphernalia outside, narrated a tale to a group of some very bewildered Samajwadis and fellow shopkeepers: “Akbar once asked Birbal for the exact number of crows in the kingdom. After two days, Birbal came up with a figure. But what if the actual figure is a little more or a little less, the emperor asked Birbal. Pat came the reply: Then it only means that relatives of some crows have come visiting, or some crows have gone visiting relatives in another town.”
The tale over, Saxena turned to the crowd: “This is a large family. Some might go here or there, but they remain crows at the end.”
Underlining that an uneasy truce is the only option for the SP family, Saxena looked in the direction of the slogan-chanting supporters of Akhilesh Yadav and his uncle Shivpal, the men at the centre of a family row that threatens to split the party: “I don’t know what’s in their head.
But this crowd is full of people who have bought Shivpal’s photographs but are now raising Akhilesh Zindabad slogans. The same goes for the other side.”
A vendor at Sheela Enterprises agreed with Saxena: “I am yet to come across a single person who has bought hoardings of only the Chief Minister or Shivpalji. There are differences, but there won’t be any split.”
Inside, at the party headquarters, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav swore he knew nothing about any other party. And, both he and uncle Shivpal had complete faith in Netaji, the term all Samajwadis use for their chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Not one in the large crowd spoke of the possibility of a split in the party or the launch of another. From former zila panchayat pramukhs to district presidents to members from other states, all maintained that this is a “family dispute” and “Netaji will bring all on board”.
And highlighting this sentiment was one incident of an unruly scuffle after word spread that Ashu Malik, MLC from
Ghaziabad, had “misbehaved” with Akhilesh on the dais inside. Akhilesh had already accused Malik of writing a letter at the behest of Amar Singh to Mulayam Singh Yadav, comparing father and son with “Shahjahan and Aurangzeb” — a ruler who imprisoned his father.
Angry, young supporters of Akhilesh hurled the choicest abuse and, breaching heavy security, ran after the vehicle
carrying Malik, considered close to the Shivpal camp. But not one of them uttered a word against Netaji. Malik later alleged he was manhandled at the residence of the Chief Minister but quickly added that Akhilesh was “not home” at that time.
Azhar Beg, a former zila panchayat president from Jalaun, was upset that Mulayam Singh had allowed the Chief
Minister’s authority to be “diminished” but maintained “Netaji is the natural leader”.
Other partymen, distraught over the turn of events and the family spat going public, agreed with Beg. “We are from Netaji’s camp. The CM should not have done that (removal of four ministers Sunday). Lekin is umra mein aisa ho jaata hai (These things do happen at this young age). He is our Chief Minister,” Virendra Yadav, former party president of Fatehpur district, said.
So why wash dirty linen in public, especially when elections are almost here? Some blamed Amar Singh, pointing out that Akhilesh had even named him. But almost everyone had a simple answer. “It’s an ego tussle. They have been misled. Netaji will resolve it,” Saudan Singh, a former office-bearer of the party’s MP unit, said.
Others said Shivpal and Akhilesh, who made emotional speeches and swore loyalty to the party, should not have fought publicly. “If it (the party meeting) was called for resolving differences between the two camps, it should have been held privately. You are publicly proving loyalty to the party and Netaji. What does it mean?” one of the leaders asked.
Still others maintained it would all end peacefully. Jagnayak Singh Yadav, a former party officer-bearer from Fatehpur, said: “This will end soon. It’s a family fight. All families fight. We Samajwadis are extremely honest. We fight it out in public.”