LUCKNOW: Mulayam Singh Yadav has taken less than 20 hours to revoke the six-year suspension of chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, apparently persuaded as much by fatherly sentiment as by the son's demonstration of the loyalty he enjoys among party lawmakers.
Akhilesh had met his father on Saturday afternoon after party senior Azam Khan had prepared the ground with an emotional and tearful Mulayam, who is known for his political flip-flops.
The son handed the Samajwadi Party patriarch a list of 207 MLAs, indicating he had majority support among the party's 229 MLAs as well the House's 403.
Mulayam immediately called younger brother Shivpal, the state unit president and Akhilesh's rival, and asked him to withdraw the suspensions of Akhilesh and party general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav, sources said.
Mulayam had himself announced the suspensions at 6.30pm on Friday, with Shivpal at his side, on the grounds of Akhilesh issuing a parallel candidate list for the Assembly polls and Ram Gopal calling a meeting of senior party members on January 1 without authorisation.
Akhilesh may not need to yield too much on either issue.
"I have received instructions from Netaji (Mulayam) to revoke the suspensions of Akhilesh and Ram Gopal," Shivpal told reporters on Saturday at 2.30pm.
"Netaji and I had announced 325 candidates a few days ago. Akhilesh then released a parallel list of 235 candidates. We shall sit together and come out with a fresh list. The other issues would also be settled soon."
A source said the "other issue" was Akhilesh's demand for the expulsion of Rajya Sabha member Amar Singh but Mulayam hadn't made any promises on this.
As for the January 1 meeting, Akhilesh has told his supporters to gather tomorrow at the Janeshwar Mishra Park here.
"That January 1 meeting is on," said Udai Veer, an MLC. "Only the venue has been changed, from the Lohia Auditorium to Janeshwar Mishra Park."
While the auditorium can seat just 500, the park can accommodate two lakh.
Amar, back in the party after several years in exile, denied he had tried to break the party and congratulated Akhilesh.
"Mulayam Singhji has done the right thing," he was quoted by PTI. "The conspiracy of the people who wanted the party and the family to break has failed."
Around 10.30 in the morning, a teary-eyed Akhilesh had met 200-odd Samajwadi MLAs and MLCs at his home.
"I'm Netaji's son; nobody can separate me from him," a source quoted him as saying. "Netaji is under the influence of the wrong people. They are not letting him speak his mind; they want to finish me politically."
Around the same time, Azam - a founder member of the party and the No. 2 in the state government as parliamentary affairs and urban development minister - arrived at Mulayam's home.
"He tried to persuade Netaji to call Akhilesh, scold him, even slap him but revoke his suspension. A tearful Netaji said Akhilesh doesn't trust him," an Azam aide said.
"They sat silently holding each other's hands for a while before Azam left, promising to return with Akhilesh."
Around 12.30, Azam walked into the meeting at Akhilesh's home, drew him aside and whispered something in his ear.
"Akhilesh ended his speech midway and accompanied Azam to Mulayam's home. He touched his father's feet and sat beside him," the Azam aide said.
"He told Netaji, 'I shall try to win enough seats in the election so that your party can form the government'. Shivpal arrived hurriedly after learning of the meeting but the guards asked him to wait in the hall."
Shivpal too had called a meeting of party MLAs at the Samajwadi headquarters in the morning, but only 22 turned up.
Azam told reporters there was no longer any dispute in the family.
"Father and son are reunited. We shall gain from whatever happened in the past few days. The Muslims were concerned because the BJP stood to gain from any problems in the Samajwadi Party," Azam said.
Mulayam has in the past suspended many senior Samajwadi politicians --- from Beni Prasad Verma and Amar to Azam and Ram Gopal himself a couple of months ago --- only to take them back after varying periods.
Examples of Mulayam's political somersaults abound. He had dumped his socialist friend Chandra Shekhar to back V.P. Singh for Prime Minister in 1989. The following year he deserted VP to support Chandra Shekhar for the top job.
Mulayam had in 1999 promised to support Sonia Gandhi's efforts to form a Congress-led government only to side with then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee the next morning.
A journalist from Etawah, camping in the Yadav family's ancestral village of Saifai, joked over the phone that Mulayam's politics was "as flexible as a belly dancer's waist".
"Although the Saifai Mahotsav wouldn't be organised this year because of the Assembly elections, Netaji seems inspired by belly dancers, who are an essential feature of the annual family jamboree," he said with a guffaw.
Poonam Sonkar, Chandauli MLA, had told The Telegraph before entering the morning meeting at the chief minister's home that Akhilesh was the party's future.
"Netaji is our leader but even he would wish to hand the party over to his son," she said.
Gomti Yadav, MLA from Bakshi Ka Talab in Lucknow, said: "We are with Akhilesh with the blessings of Netaji."
-The Telegraph Calcutta