LUCKNOW : The gloves are finally off in the Samajwadi Party (SP), which was badly mauled by the Bharatiya Janata Party in the recent state elections. Although he sidelined both his father Mulayam Singh Yadav and uncle Shivpal Singh in the run-up to the polls, former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav now finds himself in the line of fire with more and more voices in the party questioning his leadership.
While party founder Mulayam vent his anger against Akhilesh at a private event last week in the family bastion Mainpuri, saying that one who could not be loyal to his father cannot be loyal to anyone, Shivpal Singh has now targeted his nephew for his "arrogance".
A former PWD Minister, Shivpal had maintained a studied silence since being sacked as the state unit chief and also being called names by Akhilesh during the poll campaign. But he has now voiced the opinion that "people who do not respect their elders never flourish".
Insiders in the party say that whispers have already started about bringing back 'neta-ji' (Mulayam) as the national president, a post usurped by Akhilesh on January 1 at a party convention.
"The electoral outcome has shown that neta-ji and mantri-ji (Shivpal) were better at handling the organisation than bhaiyya-ji (Akhilesh)," said a former minister. While party veterans are coming to the table on this issue, Akhilesh is learnt to have refused to budge and give up the party post in favour of his father.
Still belligerent, the younger Yadav barred the 47 party legislators from going to a dinner hosted by Mulayam last week, forcing its eventual cancellation. Leaders in the party have privately begun to admit that Akhilesh was not only "still brash" but was also behaving "immaturely" despite the poll debacle that saw the party's tally in the assembly dip to an historic low.
Mohd Azam Khan, former Urban Development Minister and the go-between between the two warring sides, has also begun maintaining a distance from Yadav junior after he was sidelined and Ram Govind Chowdhary was named asLeader of the Opposition in the assembly.
The anger of Azam Khan can be gauged from the fact that he and his son Abdullah -- a first-time legislator from Swar -- have so far not taken oath as legislators even as most of the members have done so. Sources say Azam Khan is also of "changed opinion" that the party needed "veterans in the thick of things" if it was to salvage its lost pride.
Ahmad Ali, an old party hand, told IANS that the SP was "heading from one disaster to another and if the leadership is not changed fast, the remaining faith of the minorities would slip away".
The SP's decision to contest the civic polls in the national capital has also not gone down well with the rank and file, which feel that at the time "you should be introspecting at the debacle" any further embarrassment at the hustings could intensify the internal rumblings.
Akhilesh, for now, has announced a new membership drive to be taken up from April 15 and has said that the election process of the national president will be completed by September end.
Meanwhile, Akhilesh's younger brother Prateek Yadav and his politically-ambitious wife Aparna Yadav being spotted in public with new Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on two occasions has set the grapevine buzzing with people speculating a "possible crossover from the SP to the BJP". Aparna had unsuccessfully contested the assembly polls from Lucknow Cantt.
Shivpal Singh Yadav, meanwhile, is learnt to be readying a plan to float a new outfit, as announced in the run-up to the state assembly polls.
Sources say in the past one week he has held closed-door meetings with party loyalists and is itching to break free from the SP and to "chart his own political course". The party's television face, Gaurav Bhatia, once considered a member of the Akhilesh Yadav brigade, has also joined the BJP accusing the SP of digressing its laid out principles. Many are likely to follow suit.
On Monday, Sudhir Singh, a member of the SP's state executive, fired a salvo at Akhilesh, charging him with being arrogant beyond limit. Warning him to sober down, the SP leader, in a two-page letter asked: "Ghamand to Ravan ka nahi raha, aap kya cheez hain (When the arrogance of demon king Ravana did not last who are you?"
"We have suffered a humiliating defeat in the assembly elections, but there are no signs that lessons are being taken," he further stated.
Sudhir Singh also termed SP Rajya Sabha member and Akhilesh mentor Amar Singh a 'shakuni' (spoiler) who destroyed the party. "People around you misguided you into believing that you are very popular in the masses but result tells it all," he added.
With just a handful of young MLCs like Udaiveer Singh, Sanjay Lathar and Sunil Singh with him, party leaders admit the aura of the 43-year-old former Chief Minister was fast fading.