The Yadav belt of Etawah, Mainpuri and Firozabad – a Samajwadi Party stronghold for years – is divided in two distinct groups now.
Both father and son, Mulayam Singh and Akhilesh Yadav, retain their popularity with supporters and any criticism coming their way is voiced guardedly. People cherish personal contact with the senior Yadav, fondly called ‘dadda’ or ‘netaji’.
All concede they owe development in the Yadav belt to ‘netaji’ and ‘bhaiyaji’ ( Akhilesh).
Although there is more vocal support for Akhilesh, who is seen as the future face of the party and widely supported as SP’s CM candidate in the poll-bound state, they want to see Mulayam Singh at the helm of the party that he established after a long struggle.
But despite different loyalties, both factions agree that SP leadership needs to resolve the dispute soon or else the party will pay a price in the polls.
Senior SP leaders Ramgopal Yadav and Shivpal Yadav are drawing their share of flak from different quarters, for the roles they played in escalating the conflict.
Dr Pramod Yadav, who runs a clinic on Mainpuri road of Shikohabad market, says, “Akhilesh is immensely popular and has worked hard in his five-year tenure as the chief minister, but all his good work will be washed away in this family feud.”
“The chief minister should not view everything from the glasses of ‘Professor sahab’ (Ramgopal Yadav). Just imagine what will happen if a tear falls from Mulayam Singh’s eye at a public meeting in this region? Will Akhilesh be able to muster victory for his candidate from that seat?” asks a supporter, highlighting the challenges the CM would face on sidelining his father.
‘Let sense prevail’
Without naming the leader he supports, Abdul Gafoor Khan ‘Mansoori’, who has a well known utensils shop across the tehsil office in Etawah, says, “When there is a retirement age for school principals, who ensure that their students are well taught and capable of standing on their own, then why do ageing political leaders wish to continue even after the next generation has become fully capable of running the show?”
Sitting two shops away, Ram Prasad ‘Savita’ holds a different point of view. “Even if the father makes a mistake, it is the son’s duty to adjust to the situation. I hope and pray that God makes them see sense.”
At a small shop located on the diversion leading to the Yadav-dominated village of Maulapur in Sirsaganj assembly constituency of Firozabad, a heated discussion on Yadav family feud is taking place.
Randhav Singh Yadav, a wrestler in his youth, has a question-cum-advice for Mulayam, whom he regards his ‘guru’ in wrestling. “If my son turns out to be a better ‘pehalwan’ (wrestler) than me, will I not allow him to grow and rule the ‘dangal’ that I used to win?” he asks.
Meanwhile, Dhirendra Pratap Singh Yadav of Maulapur disapproves of ‘chacha’ Shivpal for steering CM’s expulsion from the party – a decision withdrawn after Azam Khan’s intervention. He is also unhappy with Ram Gopal for his comments against Mulayam.
His view is shared by Chandra Bhan Singh Yadav, a teacher, who says, “Although Akhilesh should be the leader of the party, ‘netaji’s’ respect should remain intact.”
Both Chandra Bhan and Dhirendra have decided that in case of a clash at the time of voting, they will go with the candidate supported by the CM. “Our vote will be for Akhilesh, for the development work undertaken by him, especially the ‘UP Dial 100’ police service. He’s also known for taking a stand against ‘goondaism’,” says the duo.
In Shikohabad town of the district, the story is no different.
The parliamentary constituency of Akshay Yadav, son of Ram Gopal Yadav, has two SP candidates: one comes in Shivpal’s list and the other is backed by Akhilesh.
A Yadav employed in a government job in Shikohabad says on condition of anonymity, “A solution should be reached before the polling date. Akhilesh deserves to be the leader as it is the time of ‘van-prastha’ (the fourth ashram mentioned in Hindu mythology, when a person retires to ascetic life) for ‘netaji’. However, ‘netaji’ does not deserve being dropped as the party’s national president in the manner in which he was. The meeting did not have the validity for passing such a resolution.”
Firozabad farmer Dinesh Kumar blames ‘uncle’ Shivpal and Amar Singh for “misguiding ‘netaji’ against son Akhilesh”.
Mainpuri, among the handful of constituencies from where Samajwadi Party won during the 2014 Lok Sabha election, is also divided between the Mulayam and Akhilesh camps. While the CM is widely credited for his development work, Mulayam has his own relationship with the place.
Lawyer and social activist Nawal Sharma says, “Akhilesh owes a lot to Mulayam for what he is today. His father won from Mainpuri many times, including the 2014 Lok Sabha election. He later vacated Mainpuri and retained Azamgarh, allowing Tej Pratap Yadav, Akhilesh’s cousin, to become Mainpuri’s new MP.”
Here too, resentment is evident against Shivpal, believed to be the main man behind CM’s expulsion from the party. The decision, say people here, contributed to escalating the tensions in the Yadav clan.
But lawyer A H Hashmi, also a member of Urdu Academy, calls the protests against Shivpal “an outcome of local politics”. “We are hopeful that with Azam Khan’s intervention, a solution will soon be arrived at. Despite that, it is unfortunate that Samajwadi Party has to see such days. People have taken advantage of netaji’s simplicity, which has made Akhilesh angry,” says Hashmi, mincing no words while voicing his disapproval of “leaders like Amar Singh”.
With political events unfolding at a rapid pace and assembly elections right ahead, the Yadav belt is keenly watching out and hoping for an amicable solution to the tussle in SP, which they fondly call “hamari party” (our party).