Chances of reconciliation between Akhilesh Yadav and his father Mulayam Singh Yadav brightened after the two met in Lucknow on Tuesday morning for almost two hours.
The chief minister walked to his father's residence for a discussion on the issues threatening to split the party, and the family.
The two leaders met when Shivpal Yadav and Amar Singh, Akhilesh's bête noir, weren't around. Last week's talks between Mulayam and Akhilesh had taken place with Shivpal and Amar lurking in the shadows. The chief minister believes that the duo are instigating Mulayam against him.
What transpired at the meeting wasn't officially communicated though it was seen as a positive development following Mulayam's climbdown in declaring Akhilesh as the SP's chief ministerial face. On several earlier occasions, Mulayam had insisted that the chief minister would be chosen by the SP legislators and had refused to name Akhilesh as the chief ministerial face.
Mulayam's statement was significant also because senior minister Azam Khan's name was being floated for the chief minister's post over the last couple of days.
It didn't take long for the chances of reconciliation to recede, however. Akhilesh is understood to have insisted on retaining the party presidentship and control over ticket distribution as well as removing Amar Singh from the picture.
Mulayam, reports said, does not want to give up his position as party chief. He also wants Shivpal to be given a respectable position in lieu of the state president's post, from which he was sacked by the national convention on 1 January, and Ram Gopal Yadav's position downgraded.
While the talks seemed to have got bogged down in the nitty-gritty, a senior SP leader said a compromise had nearly been reached - Amar Singh would either resign or stay away from ticket distribution, while Shivpal would be suitably adjusted.
Akhilesh, however, is stuck on the post of national president as he fears that Amar and Shivpal could manipulate his father if he is entrusted with selecting candidates.
A few months ago, the Uttar Pradesh chief minister had remarked that an "outsider" could use the mobile phone to influence the negotiations while sitting in Delhi.
Meanwhile, with the Election Commission seeking the replies of both the factions by 13 January, time is running out for the family-run party to decide on their future.
Although both factions deny any rift in the family - Mulayam did so soon after reaching Lucknow Monday night - that there is no love lost between Shivpal and Akhilesh is no secret.
The last meeting between Mulayam and Akhilesh had ended in bitterness with the patriarch being ousted as the party's president. He had retaliated by arguing that the 1 January convention called by Ram Gopal, who had been expelled, was illegal. He had insisted that he was still the national president of the party.
On Monday night, however, Mulayam refrained from reasserting his claim to the presidentship.
A legislator who is close to Akhilesh, however, said that Mulayam could not be trusted. "First he came to the SP headquarters, sat there trying to reinforce that he is still the party's national president. Then, he went to Delhi and made a representation against the CM. He also wrote a letter to the Rajya Sabha chairperson demanding Ram Gopal Yadav's expulsion as leader of the SP in the upper house. He then comes back to Lucknow and makes this statement. It smells of a plot by Amar Singh."
"He has been saying Akhilesh should accept him as the party chief. Shouldn't he first accept that the national convention was legal since an overwhelming majority of the party's delegates wanted it and then ask Akhilesh to resign as chief of the party instead of contesting the legality of the convention?"
The legislator claimed Akhilesh "is no mood" to give up his position as the chief of the SP until at least the assembly election is over.
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