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Was the SP feud a clever political game played by Mulayam Singh Yadav?

“Appear weak when you are strong.” This quote from famous Chinese General Sun Tzu, in his book The Art of War could well suit Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Fighting alarmist reports from the media, facing potential revolt from cadre and losing the bicycle symbol to his son and UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, Mulayam has pulled off a masterstroke. He has strengthened his son’s hands and has taken up the ‘marg darshak’ role of the party with the right to advise Akhilesh. The move also silenced Akhilesh’s potential rivals such as Shivpal Yadav.

The fact that it was all a political game was highlighted by two things: first that Mulayam, a fighter, did not seriously contest the EC’s claim to award the bicycle symbol to his son. Also, when the EC announced its decision, the first move by Akhilesh was to meet his father and seek his blessings. Was this the action of a son who was bitterly fighting his father over a party on the verge of splitting? No.

On Tuesday, Akhilesh declared: “Netaji ka face aur mera kaam hi party ki pehchaan hai.” (Netaji’s face and my work are the symbol of the party). Akhilesh also said that the election will be fought with Mulayam as the party’s face.

Here is the run-up to the chain of events. On the morning of January 16, before the Election Commission (EC) announced its decision, Mulayam held a meeting of his supporters where he repeatedly stressed that his lawyer had submitted all documents with affidavits and signatures to claim his stake on the party.

The EC judgment, however, contradicts Mulayam’s claim.

It says: “Mulayam Singh Yadav group did not file any affidavit of any member of the Parliament or state legislature or of any delegates to claim any support among those members of his group…In all his replies, Yadav only made the contention that there was no split in the party.”

And when Akhilesh faction filed a caveat in the Supreme Court on the heels of the EC’s order, Mulayam camp stated that they have no plans to contest the EC’s decision.

These developments, say political observers, clearly indicate a well-planned move by Mulayam to enhance his son’s credentials.

“This was a drama enacted by father and son to detract people from Akhilesh’s failures,” said BJP leader Shahnawaz Khan.


1. The initial four years of Akhilesh in office was under the shadow of elders. It was said, “UP has three and a half Chief Ministers—Mulayam, Shivpal, Azam Khan, and Akhilesh.”

2. Mulayam’s second wife Sadhna Gupta is pushing her son Prateek and daughter-in-law Aparna Yadav. These two were seen as the main threat to Akhilesh.

3. Mulayam could not overtly go against his brother Shivpal Yadav, and friend Amar Singh. Taking the matter to the EC was the safest bet.

SP’s new poster

SP has released a poster with a slogan ‘Apki Bicycle – sada chalegi aapke naam se‘ (your Bicycle will always move forward in your name). The poster has a photo of smiling Mulayam and a smaller photo of Akhilesh with folded hands.

Grand Alliance

Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party is negotiating with the Congress, Ajit Singh’s RLD and Janata Dal (United) and may announce a ‘Mahagathbandhan’ for the Assembly polls in the coming days.