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Chhoti bahu, with big ambitions

In an acknowledgement of Aparna's persistence, Mulayam himself had turned out to seek votes for his then 27-year-old “chhoti bahu” in 2017, and called her election a matter of his “prestige”

Written by Maulshree Seth |
Updated: January 20, 2022 12:03:49 am
Aparna Yadav joined the BJP on Wednesday morning. | Express photo

Aparna Yadav’s political aspirations have kept Lucknow circles busy for years, long before her sole electoral foray ended in a defeat from Lucknow Cantonment in 2017. In the shadows of “jethji” Akhilesh Yadav and “badi bhabhi” Dimple Yadav, now the conclusive inheritors of Mulayam’s legacy, Aparna has kept her hopes flickering, not deterred by even husband Prateek’s obvious disinterest in politics.

In an acknowledgement of Aparna’s persistence, Mulayam himself had turned out to seek votes for his then 27-year-old “chhoti bahu” in 2017, and called her election a matter of his “prestige”. The BJP wave at the time had, however, not just drowned her out, but also badly bruised Akhilesh.

Aparna’s decision to jump board to the BJP perhaps stems from the realisation that in the new Akhilesh dispensation, the space for her has further shrunk. As the son of Mulayam’s second wife, Prateek’s familial rights rank far below Akhilesh’s, Mulayam’s son from the first — in the general understanding of how this tangled pie is divided.

Aparna has made herself welcome in the BJP over the years, proclaiming herself more than once as an admirer of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. When Akhilesh was the CM, she had lauded the PM’s schemes like Swachh Bharat. The classical singer and social worker had also clicked a selfie with Modi when he was a guest at a family wedding.

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With Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Aparna shares an even more congenial relationship (Yogi was there to welcome her into the BJP on Wednesday). Her parents are Bishts from Uttarakhand, just like Adityanath, and followers of the Gorakhnath Matt that he heads. Aparna had visited the Matt after the death of Adityanath’s guru Mahant Awaidhnath and called on Adityanath after he became CM in 2017.

In the 2017 election, Aparna, the candidate of the SP-BSP-Congress Grand Alliance, had lost to the BJP’s Joshi by 34,000 votes. Apart from Mulayam, Congress stalwarts like its state chief Raj Babbar had campaigned for Aparna. Even Dimple had turned out for her, despite the two daughters-in-law reportedly not on the best of terms. Mulayam told voters: “Samman humara bhi juda hua hai… Humare ladke ki patni ha, humari bahu hai, aapki bhi behan va bahu hai, humein jita dena (My honour is also linked to the election. She is my son’s wife, my daughter-in-law, your sister and daughter-in-law, ensure that we win)”.

Having lost despite that, Aparna has remained politically active in Lucknow Cantt, attending social events, festivals, and prayers at temples. Observers note that these visits have gained frequency since Joshi was moved by the BJP as its Lok Sabha nominee from Allahabad, and won.

With her father a journalist, Aparna is also known to speak her mind – another reason she is often compared poorly to the politically correct Dimple. The BJP is set to project her to counter the SP and Congress’s women-centric campaigns.

However, insiders say Aparna’s first obstacle might be Joshi. The Congress-turned-BJP MP is reportedly eyeing the Lucknow Cantonment seat for her son.

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