For the past five years, Anupriya Patel has been the face of the Apna Dal, founded by her late father and headed by her mother. Now her mother, so far overshadowed, has asserted herself by clipping Anupriya’s wings and elevating another daughter, Pallavi.
Krishna has called Anupriya incapable and indisciplined, removed her as general secretary and made Pallavi vice president. Anupriya has questioned Krishna’s authority to do that. On November 4, the party’s foundation day, the two sisters will hold separate rallies — Anupriya in Allahabad, Pallavi in Varanasi along with her mother.
The Apna Dal, by Krishna’s own description, is at a crossroads.
Her attempts at asserting herself come when Anupriya’s public image has been boosted by its alliance with the BJP and then the NDA’s Lok Sabha victory. Party sources say Krishna had been cultivating a group of loyalists but Anupriya expelled or suspended them one by one.
Krishna Patel, 58
Krishna had lost assembly polls in 2002 (Akbarpur) and 2007 (Rajpur). Anupriya, who entered politics only in 2009, won from Rohaniya in 2012. And after Anupriya became Mirzapur MP, Krishna lost the Rohaniya bypoll.
“Anupriya didn’t win on her own,” says her mother. “She had the entire party behind her.”
A BA student when she married Sone Lal Patel in 1977, Krishna has four daughters, the eldest being Parul, 35, a software engineer, and the youngest, Aman, 26, a student. Pallavi, 34, who once worked as a research scientist, is a year elder to Anupriya. Parul and Anupriya are married.
Sone Lal died in an accident in 2009. Krishna looks after his colleges and business interests, as well as the party organisation in various districts. Though she became the party president, it was Anupriya who the Apna Dal came to be identified with, thanks to her frequent appearances on television.
“It is not that Anupriya isn’t trying, it is just that she isn’t capable of managing things. She is just a child, and doesn’t have the abilities of her father. This has been so since the day she was born,” she says. “She should learn from Gopinath Munde’s daughters who are working so wonderfully.”
About elevating Pallavi, she says, “She will only strengthen the party. Anupriya has been misled and can’t distinguish between good and bad anymore… though I don’t know who these people misleading her are.”
Anupriya Patel, 33
By her own admission, she was an introvert until October 26, 2009, when she spoke at a ceremony in Lucknow in memory of her father. Her speech impressed party workers, who made her general secretary. “I had one friend in school and made one more in college. They are still my only friends,” she says.
Schooled in Kanpur, she went on to Lady Shri Ram College in Delhi, made an unsuccessful attempt at the civil services, then did a masters in psychology from Amity University and an MBA from Kanpur University. She was managing her father’s school when he died, thrusting her into politics. It was 12 days after her wedding.
She accuses other parties of trying to break the Apna Dal. “Had my mother been a mature politician, she wouldn’t have been influenced by these elements. But she is a simple person, she isn’t a shrewd politician… Pallavi is my sister but it is not the right time for the party to have another member from the family in the organisation. This will send a message that only the family is being promoted.”
Pallavi Patel, 34
She says she has been contributing to the party from “behind the scenes” and felt the time had come to move up a step now that Anupriya has so much on her hands. A postgraduate in biotechnology, she did research at IIT Kanpur for two years, went on to Dr Reddy’s laboratory in Hyderabad as a junior scientist researching anti-cancer drugs, then returned home in 2009.
She was preparing to go to University of Bedfordshire for an MBA course when her father died. For five years, she has been looking after her father’s business, with eldest sister Parul helping her. “It was like I was part of the party but always behind the curtain. Now I’ll use a scientist’s analytical approach with the party,” she says.
“Anupriya is an MP now and cannot give as much time time to the party and strategy making as she did earlier,” she says.
“I don’t know why she is opposing my elevation. After father died, my mother always gave the opportunities to Anupriya. I think it was the right thing to do and Anupriya has added value to the party. But now we need to have more hands on deck.”