UP polls: Is Shivpal Yadav trying to spoil Akhiesh Yadav's chances?
Is the fear of Akhilesh Yadav wielding the sword keeping Shivpal Yadav in check or is the Uttar Pradesh chief minister's uncle plotting to undermine his poll prospects unmindful of the consequences?
The former state president of the Samajwadi Party is contesting from Jaswantnagar seat in Etawah, from where he first won in 1996, on the 'cycle' symbol.
Despite the ugly scenes of accusations and mike snatching at a meeting of party leaders in Lucknow last year, following which Akhilesh sacked his uncle from his post and appointed Naresh Uttam in his place, Shivpal appears to be a loyal soldier of the party.
Amid rumours that Shivpal may contest on Lok Dal ticket, the chief minister fielded Shivpal from his traditional seat and the latter accepted the offer with the remark that he will contest from wherever he is asked to by the party. His loyalty towards Akhilesh, however, remains suspect.
Shivpal, who was unceremoniously sacked as the state's PWD minister, nurtures a grudge against Akhilesh because in the feud that rocked Mulayam's family, it was he who only got ignominy for his proximity with Amar Singh.
Even Mulayam Singh Yadav, who did a flip flop on whether he would campaign for the Congress-Samajwadi Party alliance forged by Akhilesh, was in reality with his first born and true heir. Given his ambivalence, it will be worth watching if Netaji sticks to his statement that he will begin his poll campaign by seeking votes first for Shivpal and not Akhilesh.
But there is no ambiguity about Shivpal Yadav's moves against his nephew.
The former powerful minister's angst rang out loud when he said in Jaswantnagar that the youth who get everything in inheritance, do not respect their elders, clearly a jibe against Akhilesh. On an earlier occasion too Shivpal had said that Akhilesh had got power without having to toil for it.
After filing his papers on 31 January, Shivpal threatened to form a new party after the elections. In what was indicative of sabotage Shivpal said, "You form the government we will make a new party after 11 March."
He also said that he will campaign for rebels who were denied the party ticket but were contesting against the official nominees. Shivpal made the statement a day after Mulayam announced in Delhi that he was unhappy with the alliance which his son had forged with the Congress.
If Mulayam does not campaign for the party nominees and Shivpal campaigns for the rebels against the official SP candidates, it could damage the Akhilesh-Rahul combine's chances and give BJP a clear edge.
Although Akhilesh did not take any action against his estranged uncle, he did issue a warning from Etah that those trying to sabotage the party, will not be spared.
A mellowed Shivpal later said that he would decide his next course of action after the elections were over but Akhilesh expelled Chaudhary Indrasen, party's rebel candidate from Saharanpur.
Shivpal's main grievance, like that of Mulayam, was that those who had worked hard in their constituencies had been left high and dry by the party. About 35 legislators who are believed to be Shivpal's loyalists did not make it to Akhilesh's list. Others became victims of the seat-sharing formula between SP and Congress. Many of these candidates are now in the fray as Independents.
In the confusion, the Muslim vote pie may eventually get divided between Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance and the rebels, making the BJP's task easier. A section of Yadavs may also drift towards the rebels and queer the pitch for Akhilesh.
The question being asked is why did Shivpal not resign from the party like Ambika Chaudhary and Narad Rai and contest as an Independent? Sources in the SP said that if 30-40 rebels get elected Shivpal could spoil Akhilesh's party, especially if it is a hung assembly.