About two weeks ago, Keshav Prasad Maurya, the Deputy Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, had taken a potshot at the Samajwadi Party (SP) for failing to "manage its own family" after Aparna Yadav joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
"Standing together as one family" was the message that SP chief Akhilesh Yadav wanted to send when he managed to get his uncle Shivpal Yadav back into the 'Mulayam' fold. But Aparna's defection has set tongues wagging again.
This is clearly not the first time that there's been a disruption in the Yadav family's 'unity'.
Things were more or less the same before the 2017 Assembly elections as well. Let's take a look at the saga of infighting amongst the Yadav clan and how power has changed hands.
From Panchayat to Parliament
Mulayam Singh Yadav, the octogenarian born in Saifai in Etawah district of Uttar Pradesh, heads a family in which nearly all the adult members have held some post or the other – be it in the Panchayat or Parliament.
Let's take a look at the first generation: patriarch Mulayam is an MP from Mainpuri, his younger brother Shivpal Yadav is an MLA from Jaswant Nagar, and his cousin Ramgopal Yadav is a member of the Rajya Sabha.
Mulayam married Sadhana Gupta in 2003, long after the death of his first wife Malti Devi. Akhilesh Yadav is the son of Mulayam and Malti Devi, and his half-brother Prateek is the son of Sadhana Gupta. Though Prateek keeps politics at arm's length, his wife Aparna Yadav is an active political worker.
Ratan Singh, the older brother of Mulayam Singh, and his son Ranveer Singh had been the Block Pramukhs of Saifai. His daughter-in-law Mridula is now a Block Pramukh, while his grandson Tej Pratap was an MP.
Ratan Singh passed away in 2002.
Abhay Ram, another older brother of Mulayam, maintains his distance from politics.
But his son Dharmendra Yadav was an MP, his daughter Sandhya was the chairperson of Mainpuri Zilla Panchayat, and another son Anurag fought the 2017 Assembly elections from Sarojini Nagar seat as an SP candidate.
Shivpal's son Aditya, meanwhile, is the chairperson of the District Cooperative Bank of Etawah. Rajpal Yadav’s wife Premlata had been the chairperson of a Zilla Panchayat. Their son Anshul now holds the same post.
Rajya Sabha MP Ramgopal Yadav is a cousin of Mulayam Singh. His son Akshay Yadav was an MP, and his nephew Arvind Singh is an MLC.
The Beginning of the Feud
The Yadav clan got divided into two factions in 2012 when Akhilesh Yadav became the chief minister of the state. Akhilesh and Ramgopal were on the same side, while Shivpal teamed up with Amar Singh.
The differences and disputes had been an open secret all through the SP's rule, but they spilled onto the streets in the run-up to the 2017 elections. At the time, many party workers were in Lucknow shouting slogans, and staging protests and sit-ins in favour of their favorite Yadav.
In December 2015, three of the key members of Team Akhilesh, namely Anand Bhadauriya, Sunil Yadav Sajan, and Subodh Yadav, were expelled from the party on allegations of anti-party activities.
Shivpal was believed to be behind the decision. Akhilesh took offence and did not attend the Saifai Mahotsav, an annual gala in their hometown. Later, Mulayam went soft on Akhilesh, and allowed the entry of Sunil Yadav and Anand Bhadauriya back into the party fold.
Differences Over Alliance With Mukhtar Ansari
When the ticket distribution began in 2017, Shivpal had pushed for an Assembly ticket for Aparna. Mulayam gave her a ticket from Lucknow Cantt despite protests from Akhilesh.
Moreover, Amar Singh was allowed back into the party. Shivpal welcomed the move, but Akhilesh and Ramgopal vehemently opposed it. The differences between the uncle and the nephew grew wider after incidents like these unfolded one after the other.
Soon, Akhilesh vetoed an alliance with the Quami Ekta Dal of Mukhtar Ansari, while Shivpal favoured it. The alliance could not be worked out and Shivpal threatened to leave the party. Mulayam somehow managed to salvage the situation, but things took a turn in September 2016.
Shivpal: A Minister Without a Portfolio
On 11 September 2016, Akhilesh sacked ministers Gayatri Prajapati and Raj Kishor on charges of corruption. A day later, Deepak Singhal, who had been the chief secretary, was removed from his post. All three were considered close aides of Shivpal.
Infuriated by the insult to his brother, Mulayam made Shivpal the state president of the party in place of Akhilesh.
Akhilesh, who was the chief minister then, hit back at the move and took back all the departments from Shivpal, rendering him a minister without a portfolio.
Shivpal, his wife, and his son resigned from all posts of the party on 15 September 2016.
However, the resignations were not accepted, and Mulayam once again brokered peace between his brother and son. Gayatri Prajapati made a comeback to ministry, and Shivpal got his portfolios back. It was decided that Akhilesh would call the shots in ticket distribution in the 2017 elections.
Mulayam's Hard-Hitting Statement
When Shivpal offered tickets to murder accused Amarmani Tripathi and nine others, Akhilesh feigned ignorance. Also, the Quami Ekta Dal got merged with the SP three months after Akhilesh had protested against the move.
On 14 October 2016, Mulayam Singh dropped a bombshell: "The chief minister candidate would be declared after the election." This statement threatened the position of Akhilesh, who was the incumbent chief minister.
On 23 October 2016, Akhilesh sacked Shivpal and three other ministers from his Cabinet. Ramgopal wrote an open letter to party workers supporting the move, but Shivpal responded to it by expelling the former from the party.
When Akhilesh Was Expelled From SP
In December later that year, Mulayam expelled Akhilesh and Ramgopal from the party for six years. Mulayam was upset with Akhilesh over ticket distribution, wherein he had allegedly favoured his close associates.
The supporters of Akhilesh took to the streets and shouted slogans in favour of their leader.
A national convention of the party was called at Janeshwar Mishra Park in Lucknow, where Ramgopal declared Akhilesh as the new national president of the party.
Shivpal was sacked as the state president, and Amar Singh was expelled. Mulayam and Shivpal did not attend the party convention and said that it went against the party's constitution. The Yadav clan split in the middle and Akhilesh usurped the command of the party.
The SP lost the 2017 Assembly elections and Shivpal formed his own outfit called the Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (PSP).
Bitterness in the family peaked during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Shivpal decided to fight from the Firozabad seat, where Ramgopal's son Akshay Yadav was a sitting MP.
Result: the votes got divided, and Akshay lost the seat.
Since then, there have been many rumours about the differences in the Yadav clan. But the election season is back and Akhilesh has facilitated the re-entry of uncle Shivpal into the SP fold. Aparna, however, has left for the BJP.
Despite infighting and differences, the SP today has become the fiefdom of Akhilesh, who now controls not only the politics of the party but also the dominant power tussle within the family.