Mulayam Singh, Akhilesh Yadav and Aparna Yadav: The Yadav family soap opera is playing out on the eve of UP Elections 2022 Image Credit: ANI

With the all important Uttar Pradesh elections in India barely weeks away, Samajwadi Party (SP) led by Akhilesh Yadav has emerged as a very strong challenger to the Yogi Adityanath-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

A wary ruling party has now pulled out its old playbook to attack Yadav.

BJP has actively interfered in the Yadav family by getting the family patriarch Mulayam Singh’s daughter-in-law Aparna Yadav (from his second wife Sadhana Gupta) to join the party. Incredibly the BJP has also drafted Sadhana Gupta’s brother Pramod Gupta to join the BJP.

Gupta has made some sensation allegations against Akhilesh Yadav. He alleged that Akhilesh was keeping his father a “captive” and behaved rudely with Mulayam Singh Yadav.

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This is not exactly a new low in electoral politics as the BJP had used the same script against Yadav of a family fallout during the 2017 elections. Back then the BJP had sensationally alleged that Akhilesh Yadav had physically abused his father.

It is no secret in the courtly power circuit in Lucknow that Akhilesh Yadav does not get along at all with his father’s second wife. As a youngster, Akhilesh was sent away to boarding school because he had daily run-ins with Mulayam Singh Yadav’s second wife.

When it came to his own marriage, Akhilesh Yadav was forced to draft in the late Amar Singh to get Mulayam on board with his choice of Dimple.

Aparna Yadav who is married to Pratik Yadav, a businessman and a body builder, is the daughter of the former chief of bureau of Times of India, Lucknow edition, Arvind Singh Bhist.

A matter of prestige

Aparna had in the last elections (2017) forced Akhilesh to give her a ticket from Lucknow where she lost her deposit to BJP’s Rita Bahuguna Joshi. Now both the women are in contention for the Lucknow cantonment seat.

Mulayam Singh Yadav had campaigned for his daughter-in-law in the last elections saying it was a matter of prestige for his home.

Then the BJP had accused SP of dynastic politics and made an issue of Pratik Yadav’s ride — fancy Lamborghini. Aparna had then retorted that her husband was a businessman and did not need to be a socialist. Now she is a member of the BJP.

Yogi Adityanath and Aparna hail from the same district and it is believed that she got on board the Yogi bandwagon to join the BJP. Aparna had earlier embarrassed the SP by fully supporting and donating for the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya and expressing support for Modi’s “Swach Bharat Abhiyan”. Aparna has been a self confessed Modi fan for years.

Despite the BJP’s attempt to capitalise on the family feud and add fuel to the fire of the inner family power struggle observers say that Akhilesh’s mature handling of the issue will ensure that the family soap opera does not blow out of control.

Family soap opera

How many times can the family division and soap opera be encashed at the electoral box office, asks a senior SP leader wryly. Akhilesh Yadav had already paid a price for his battle with his father for control of the party.

Yadav junior had rebelled against his father and uncles when he was reduced to being a puppet CM of UP with his father and uncles calling the shots.

The difference now is that Yadav is in full control of the SP and has publicly patched up with his uncle Shivpal Yadav and Mulayam Singh is firmly by his side.

Akhilesh also scored in his mature response to Aparna joining the BJP where he congratulated her and said tongue in cheek that he was happy that the socialist ideology was being carried over to the BJP.

After three Yogi ministers including Swami Prasad Maurya, an important OBC leader, defected to the SP it was only a matter of time before the BJP hit back.

However, Aparna Yadav’s impact on the UP elections is debatable, considering she lost her deposit in the last contest. Even Pramod Gupta is hardly a household name to seriously impact SP's fortunes adversely.

All they do is add a soap opera feel to the campaign. And, the UP electorate enjoys a real life soap opera playing out.  How much it impacts their voting choices is a real question.