Mulayam Singh Yadav
In picture: Mulayam Singh YadavSamajwadi Party official website

Samajwadi Party (SP) co-founder Mulayam Singh Yadav said on Monday night that his son Akhilesh Yadav, who had snatched power within the party from him recently, would continue to be chief minister.

This is a marked departure from his earlier stand that he himself would choose a chief ministerial candidate from the party. The move in stance can be chalked up to two things: Either the 77-year-old is too weary and has admitted defeat, or he just gave a glimpse of his strategy, where Akhilesh has emerged as a strong leader who the voters will flock to.

What Mulayam said

Earlier on Monday, Mulayam had signalled that there was apparently no bad blood between him and Akhilesh. "There are some who have influenced my son (Akhilesh). I had a talk with him last night and also in the morning over the issue. There is no dispute between my son and me. There are some differences within the party, not much. Only one person is responsible for this. That will be resolved soon when I reach Lucknow," he had said. 

This, even as the two factions within the SP — led by him and his son, respectively — battle for legitimacy, with the party's election symbol as the winner's prize, because with it comes the bragging rights. 

Mulayam later told ANI: "There is no dispute between my son and me. Akhilesh will be the chief minister after elections [if the SP wins it]."

What it means

On the surface, Mulayam allowing Akhilesh the chief ministerial position may seem like an olive branch. After all, the two have been locked in a bitter dispute that has not only split the party informally, but also led to the ouster of several top SP leaders from key posts. 

However, others are seeing this as a strategy for the SP to project Akhilesh as a strong politician — one that can beat the anti-incumbency factor and become chief minister once again by winning the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.