He had taken over the reins of the party in 2017 but it is now that he will have to take on the responsibility of the family too.
The passing away of Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh has increased the burden manifold on the frail shoulders of Akhilesh Yadav.
Akhilesh Yadav now faces the challenge of keeping the party as well as the family together because the Yadav family and the Samajwadi Party have so far existed more or less as one entity. The party has been the family and family is the party.
Till Mulayam Singh was alive, his word was command and no one in the party or the family dared to disobey him – even though Akhilesh was party chief.
Mulayam maintained a balance in family relationships and ensured political importance to every family member. It was Mulayam who built up the largest political dynasty in the country – one in which even women got representation.
While Mulayam remained undisputed leader of the clan, it is unlikely that Akhilesh will be accorded the same position – especially from the elders.
His uncle Shivpal has already branched out on his own after five years of strained relationship with Akhilesh while younger sister-in-law Aparna Bisht Yadav has joined the BJP.
Akhilesh now faces the uphill task of keeping the family together and ensuring that his elders, Shivpal included, do not turn hostile.
The manner in which Akhilesh’s half-brother Prateek Yadav was “alienated” during the cremation of Mulayam Singh Yadav on Tuesday, does not augur well for the future of the family.
A family member who spoke on condition of anonymity, said on Wednesday, “In this hour of grief, the family has shown extreme restraint and dignity and now it is up to Akhilesh to give respect to elders and keep the flock together. Netaji (Mulayam) always wanted to keep the family together but failed to repair the relationship between Shivpal and Akhilesh and it was this that pained him the most.”
He said that no one in the family was challenging Akhilesh’s leadership or his claim to Mulayam’s political legacy. “But everyone wants the respect and importance they deserve,” he added.
His biggest test, according to family sources, will be the by-election in Mainpuri which will be necessitated by the demise of Mulayam Singh.
Akhilesh will need the active support of the family to retain the seat which has been considered a SP bastion.
There are already murmurings in political circles that the BJP may play a master stroke and convince Shivpal to contest and win his brother’s seat. If that happens, SP will lose its third bastion in a row after it lost Rampur and Azamgarh to BJP earlier this year.
Within the Samajwadi Party too, Akhilesh will have to work overtime to keep the flock together.
Till now, the disgruntled elements used to rush to Mulayam Singh with their grievances and Mulayam would pacify them and ensure that they returned with a smile.
Akhilesh will have to make himself more accessible to workers and receptive to suggestions-more so, if they come for the veterans in the party.
“Mulayam Singh was a strong adhesive who kept the family and the party together and Akhilesh will have to make a Herculean effort to walk in his father’s footsteps. The Lok Sabha elections are round the corner and his biggest test has just begun,” said a party veteran.