Amir Khan starrer Dangal has been creating ripples in India and abroad currently. The film, based on the life of wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat and his daughters have touched a chord amongst viewers for its emotional portrayal of father-daughter relationship.
A similar drama has been unfolding in the political sphere as well. Ironically, this political drama, too, involves a former wrestler and his son. I am talking about the ongoing feud in the Samajwadi Party (SP) which has dragged party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav in head-on battle.
The SP feud has indeed been nothing short of a Bollywood drama. It has involved a loyal young son, a loving father, a power hungry uncle, a bit of crying and at times, even making up. It all started with the bitter rivalry between Yadav Junior and his uncle, Shivpal. What started in December 2015 after two of Akhilesh’s loyal aids were dismissed then spiraled into some nasty incidents, including Akhilesh’s public refusal to follow his uncle’s decision, his uncle threatening to quit the party and ultimately the party patriarch Mulayam throwing his son out of the party.
In the latest turn of events, Yadav Junior was re-called into the party just a day after his dismissal. But just when it looked like the SP feud was finally over, the party split down the middle on Sunday, when the faction headed by Akhilesh removed Mulayam as party chief and appointed Akhilesh in his place at a convention in which the group claimed support of the majority of legislators and district units.
While the entire feud looks bitter, it has indeed been orchestrated to pave way for Akhilesh’s grip on the party. While still unverified, an allegedly leaked e-mail of Steve Jarding, political advisor to Akhilesh for the impending elections, gives hints of this. In the e-mail, Jarding talks about orchestrating a family feud to project Yadav as a clean and popular leader and throw his uncle Shivpal Yadav out of the picture.
Since Yadav Senior could not easily hand over power to his son with his brother Shivpal zealously eyeing the party leadership, a drama had to be scripted to show that Akhilesh held more popularity in the party and his leadership would be more legit. It was generally believed that Shivpal, who has worked with his brother Mulayam to nurture the 25-year-old party had more support in the party’s rank and file as compared to his nephew. However, a convention held by Akhilesh’s faction, soon after his ‘re-entry’ into the party, saw presence of over 200 of the party's 229 MLAs. Most importantly, the proposal to make him the party chairman was welcomed by nearly 5,000 important party men showing that he had overwhelming public support.
Mulayam’s covert support has played a part in majority of party men supporting Akhilesh. He seems to have convinced even his loyalists to support Akhilesh at his own cost. This has done the trick and portrayed the picture that majority of the party is in favour of Akhilesh assuming the party leadership. It would not be surprising to see the father – son duo make up publicly in an emotional affair in the coming days and gain the much coveted public sympathy for the upcoming elections.
What remains to be seen is how the rejected Shivpal responds now. Whether he will rebelliously form a new party or accept defeat and fall behind Akhilesh’s shadow remains unclear.