Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav may have won the present feud for power against family members including uncle Shivpal Yadav. However, the victory may not last long because of the inherent dynamics of the political dynasty he comes from. If Akhilesh does manage to win the upcoming Assembly elections in the state in alliance with the Congress, he would have to be constantly wary of none but his younger brother Prateek Yadav’s wife, Aparna Yadav, who describes herself as a social worker on Facebook.
Aparna, 26, has become one of the important faces in Lucknow’s elite social circles, visibly active for “social work” and all her public activities are prominently reported in local media — both the English and Hindi newspapers — on a regular basis. In fact, in the last one year, Lucknowites have become used to seeing Aparna’s posters in many areas of the city. If posters and news coverage could be taken as benchmarks of popularity, Aparna comes second only to Akhilesh in the SP family. Even Mulayam and Shivpal doesn’t find much coverage in Lucknow’s media.
Since 2012, Akhilesh has tried to make Lucknow his own citadel. Though he couldn’t save it in the Modi wave of 2014, he has ensured that Lucknowites don’t lose interest in SP with a slew of development projects and by projecting the party as the saviour of secularism. Akhilesh’s focus on Lucknow makes sense because his more illustrious father and uncle already have their citadel in Saifai, Etawah.
Despite this, Aparna’s rising public profile in the state capital in the last one year is something that has missed political critics’ attention. As the fight for power between two camps led by Akhilesh and Mulayam respectively unfolded in the last 4-5 months, it was rumoured that Aparna’s introduction to politics could be one of the reasons behind the fight.
Then SP state president, Shivpal Yadav, had announced Aparna as the party’s candidate from Lucknow Cantt seat in March last year. Aparna was reportedly introduced to politics as her husband Prateek decided to focus on his business interests. When the power feud intensified, Akhilesh had come up with his own list of candidates that omitted Aparna’s name. Media reports had suggested that Akhilesh camp felt the introduction of another family member in politics would undermine Akhilesh’s authority as the only successor to Mulayam’s political legacy.
Akhilesh camp’s apprehensions were not entirely baseless. Aparna does come as a politically correct personality, with a degree in International Relations from the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. She doesn’t even shy away from showing her singing skills publicly.
Unlike Akhilesh, Aparna is probably the only member among the next generation leaders of Mulayam’s clan who has tried to build her own identity, separate from the orthodoxies often attached to Mulayam and Shivpal and their party. In contrast, Akhilesh tried to assert his leadership only a few months before the polls in what is seen as a “staged drama” by the opposition parties.
The family feud is now over. Akhilesh has not only given a ticket to uncle Shivpal but also to Aparna from Lucknow Cantt. Aparna would take on BJP’s Rita Bahuguna Joshi, who recently left the Congress. Joshi is a heavyweight politician in the Cantt area, which is an urban constituency with 3.3 lakh voters.
If SP-Congress alliance wins the polls then one can’t claim Akhilesh won’t make Shivpal an important minister once again. In case Aparna also emerges as a winner, Akhilesh would be constantly reminded that he is not the only SP leader with a “clean face” who can take forward Mulayam’s legacy.