The rift that divided Mulayam Singh Yadav’s family in the run-up to the 2017 Assembly elections came to an end in full public view on Thursday as the Samajwadi Party (SP) scored a massive victory in the Mainpuri Lok Sabha bypoll.
Mulayam’s brother Shivpal Singh Yadav quit the party at the time following a dispute with his nephew and SP president Akhilesh Yadav and floated the Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia) in 2018. But after Akhilesh’s wife Dimple won Mainpuri by more than 2.88 lakh votes, Shivpal merged his party with the SP.
Both Akhilesh and Shivpal sat together in Saifai in Etawah district, where the SP chief touched his uncle’s feet and presented him with his party’s flag. Later, they posted photographs of the event on Twitter. SP workers also placed a party flag on Shivpal’s car.
How Shivpal helped SP
Shivpal is the MLA from the Jaswantnagar Assembly segment of the Mainpuri parliamentary seat, which is an SP stronghold. He won the Uttar Pradesh Assembly poll earlier this year on an SP ticket, but the distance between him and Akhilesh continued to widen as the veteran leader complained about allegedly not being taken into confidence by his nephew regarding matters of the party and the alliance that the SP had stitched together in the run-up to the Assembly elections.
All this changed following Mulayam’s death in October as the family came together to ensure they held on to the SP founder’s constituency. In 2019, when Mulayam won Mainpuri by 94,389 votes, he had a 62,126-vote lead from Jaswantnagar. Dimple Yadav’s lead from Jaswantnagar was about 1.06 lakh votes. Compared to Jaswantnagar, Dimple’s lead was about 35,000 votes in Karhal that is her husband’s Assembly constituency. The dominant performance in Jaswantnagar is entirely down to Shivpal who, focused his campaign in his constituency and addressed most of his rallies there. Akhilesh and Dimple too joined him at public meetings there.
Akhilesh and Shivpal started to mend their strained ties earlier this year as they came together for the Assembly elections. At a joint rally in Varanasi on March 3, the SP president addressed his uncle as “adarniya (beloved) Shivpal Singh Yadav ji”. Shivpal told the crowd that he united with Akhilesh on the demand of people.
The rough edges, however, remained. In July, after Shivpal cross-voted in support of BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) nominee Droupadi Murmu in the presidential polls, Akhilesh wrote to Shivpal, saying, “Mananaiya Shivpal Singh Yadav ji, agar aapko lagta hai, kahin jyada samman milega to wahan jaane ke liye aap swatantra hain (If you think you will get more respect somewhere else, you are free to leave).”
The rapprochement began as Mulayam’s health deteriorated. They were seen together at the hospital during the last days of the SP founder. Both of them camped in Mainpuri to ensure the SP did not lose another stronghold to the BJP after the Rampur and Azamgarh Lok Sabha seats went out of the party’s control in June. Last month, at a meeting on a college campus in Jaswantnagar, Akhilesh referred to Shivpal as “hamare chacha (my uncle)” and touched his feet, signalling that they had buried the hatchet.
Recently, Akhilesh also hit out at Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath after he called Shivpal a pendulum. “He (Shivpal) is my uncle who learnt politics from Netaji, and he will swing you (Adityanath) in such a way that you will not know where you have landed,” said the SP chief.
Earlier, Shivpal elaborated on Dimple’s role in bringing about the “reconciliation” between him and Akhilesh. The veteran leader said Dimple had reached out to him for support and he told her that she should be his “witness if Akhilesh does anything wrong”. Before that, Akhilesh and Dimple had met Shivpal in Saifai to seek his support.
At every public event, Shivpal asked the workers of his (now former) political outfit to ensure Dimple’s win and referred to her as “bahu (daughter-in-law)”. Shivpal also asked Akhilesh to have faith in him and added that he could dedicate his life to him. With Mulayam popularly referred to as Netaji, Shivpal said his nephew should be called “Chhotey Netaji (Junior Netaji)”.