Professor Saab is back again in the Samajwadi Party (SP). Ram Gopal Yadav is known by that title in Uttar Pradesh's ruling party. He has been in the eye of the storm ever since the bitter feud broke out in his family.
Shivpal Yadav had expelled him from the party around two months ago for alleged anti-party activities. Now, the decision for his reinstatement has come from SP's National President Mulayam Singh Yadav.
It has been a no-holds-barred slanging match between the two factions of the party. Expressing his loyalty to the Shivpal Yadav camp, Amar Singh had gone to the extent of claiming that Ram Gopal should be held responsible if he is murdered. His tone has mellowed down following Ram Gopal's return to the party.
"Wo andar ke aadmi hain, main bahar ka...isliye kuch nahin kahunga (He is an insider unlike me. Therefore, I will not say anything)," Singh stated.
Ram Gopal Yadav, on his part, expressed his gratitude to Mulayam Singh Yadav. "I was never against the party. I have never spoken against it. I am in the Samajwadi Party and will remain in it," he said.
The story so far
His story of his ouster and eventual return to the party is interesting. Many incidents during the past two months help decipher this saga.
On 14 November, Ram Gopal Yadav broke down during a press conference called in Etawah. With a choked throat, he cited the party constitution to remind people that only the National President could have expelled him. Yadav also demanded that either Mulayam Singh should issue his expulsion order or the party should call its national convention to take a final decision in this regard.
As per SP's rules, the national convention is held every three years. Next such conglomeration is some time away. However, it can be called earlier if 40% members of party's national executive committee give their consent.
Interestingly, 40% members of the committee can also affect a change in party's national guard in cases of emergency.
Although, Ram Gopal Yadav fell short of suggesting such a coup, but the underlying message in his demand was not lost on anybody within the party.
Ram Gopal Yadav had been bolstered by the support of Akhilesh Yadav in making such an audacious demand. He reiterated that the party should declare Akhilesh Yadav as its chief ministerial candidate for the upcoming state elections and give him full right to select candidates.
The same party constitution that Ram Gopal Yadav evoked also states that the party can give authority to allocate election tickets to any of its leaders through the national convention, bypassing even the state president. The subtle signals sent by Ram Gopal Yadav seem to have worked for him.
The 14 November press conference clearly tilted the balance in Ram Gopal Yadav's favour amidst the ongoing family tussle.
Many members of his family were present during the conference, including Mulayam Singh's grandson Tej Pratap Yadav. He represents party's traditional bastion of Mainpuri in the Lok Sabha. Anshul Yadav was yet another member of Mulayam's clan to attend the conference. He is an MLC from Etawah.
This is now apparent that the Akhilesh-Ram Gopal Yadav camp enjoys majority even within the family whereas Shivpal Yadav is increasingly being isolated.
The signs were ominous for the party's state president even during Samajwadi Party's silver jubilee celebrations. While Akhilesh Yadav took not-so-veiled swipes at his uncle during the programme, Shivpal Yadav had to swallow his pride to state that he was committed to seeing the chief minister march forward to victory in the election.
Shivpal Yadav has been working behind the scenes to repeat the grand alliance experiment in UP. He was pitching to unite all the dissipated factions of the erstwhile Janata Parivar.
Yadav's approval for Quami Ekta Dal's merger into the party was also seen as a part of the same strategy. Akhilesh Yadav has made his opposition clear against the move. Eventually, Mulayam Singh Yadav poured water over Shivpal Yadav's plans.
On 10 November, he ruled out any alliance for the polls while clarifying that his party was open to mergers. Shivpal Yadav had no other option but to maintain silence.
Meanwhile, the Samajwadi Party was faced with a precarious situation in the winter session of the Parliament. It could not have gone into the session without a leader in the Upper House.
According to party sources, Naresh Aggarwal and Beni Prasad Verma were discussed as the potential successors to Ram Gopal Yadav in this capacity. However, Mulayam Singh was not ready to trust either of the two. While Naresh Aggarwal has the image of a political turncoat, Verma has switched sides only recently.
Sources close to Mulayam's family claim the honour of leading the party in the Parliament comes with many responsibilities.
The leader has to regularly interact with the government ministers as well as the Leader of the Opposition. The job includes floor management as well as dealings of all kinds with the ruling party.
Therefore, Mulayam Singh preferred a family member over any other leader for this post. The consistent pressure from Akhilesh Yadav for Ram Gopal Yadav's reinstatement also contributed to the latter's return.
Ram Gopal Yadav is now back as the leader of the Samajwadi Party's Parliamentary group. While the family feud is far from over, he is out of banishment. Shivpal Yadav seems to have lost the plot, at least for now.