New Delhi: Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav on Wednesday said he wished to see Narendra Modi back as prime minister, remarks which left the opposition squirming in Lok Sabha but were greeted by cheers from the treasury benches with the PM acknowledging Yadav’s “blessings” with folded hands.

“I wish that all members come back to the House,” Yadav said during the last sitting of the 16th Lok Sabha, drawing applause from the BJP members who are in a majority in the House. He said pointing to Modi that he wishes that the BJP leader comes back as the prime minister.

Ruling alliance members heartily cheered Yadav with chants of “Jai Shri Ram” as he praised Modi for “making efforts to take everyone along”.

Modi acknowledged SP patriarch’s praise with folded hands and later made mention of Yadav’s “blessings” in his speech.

The Samajwadi Party, which is led by Mulayam’s son Akhilesh Yadav, has joined hands with the BSP in Uttar Pradesh to take on the BJP in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Long history of Yadav-Gandhi discord

Harkishen Singh Surjeet had motivated the Left parties in April 1999, after the fall of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government by one vote in the confidence motion moved in Parliament, to ditch Sonia Gandhi and force her to call her plans to form a government off.

The more frequently recalled story was that, on 21 April 1999, after Sonia Gandhi met then President KR Narayanan to formally stake her claim to form the next government with the famous comment, “We have 272 and more are coming,” Mulayam Singh Yadav, who had been earlier assured her of the Samajwadi Party’s support, suddenly took a U-turn and announced to the media that his party would not be supporting the Congress.

Modi-Yadav bonhomie

Mulayam Singh had personally invited Prime Minister Modi to the tilak ceremony ahead of his grandnephew Tej Pratap Yadav’s marriage with Rashtriya Janata Dal president Lalu Prasad Yadav’s youngest daughter Raj Laxmi in February 2015.

Modi was then seen walking hand-in-hand and exchanging pleasantries with both the Yadav leaders during the pre-wedding ceremony for Mulayam’s grandnephew in Saifai village.

Father-son duel

The other factor that could have played a role in Mulayam’s statement of Wednesday is his continuing feud with son and political heir Akhilesh Yadav.

Since Akhilesh became the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh in 2012, surpassing Mulayam’s brother Shivpal Singh Yadav, the Yadav family was divided into two feuding groups. One of the groups, led by Akhilesh, enjoyed the support of his father’s cousin and general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav. The rival group was led by Mulayam Singh and supported by his brother and State chief of party, Shivpal Yadav, and a friend, MP Amar Singh.

Akhilesh fired his uncle twice from his Cabinet as it was seen by many as a direct challenge to his father, who has steadily supported Shivpal over Akhilesh.

On 30 December 2016, Mulayam expelled his son Akhilesh and his cousin Ram Gopal from the party for six years on the grounds of indiscipline, only to revoke the decision 24 hours later. Akhilesh, in response, stripped his father of the party presidency and instead named him the chief patron of the party following the national convention of the party on 1 January 2017.

Mulayam termed the national convention as illegal and directly expelled his cousin, Ram Gopal Yadav, who had convened the national executive convention. But the Election commission of India ruled that Ram Gopal Yadav had the right to convene that executive convention, and reversed Mulayam’s order. Hence Akhilesh Yadav officially became the new National Leader of the party.

While the two factions had patched up before the last UP Assembly election, it could not help Akhilesh Yadav retain power. The factions are clearly at loggerheads now. With Akhilesh in alliance with the BSP of Mayawati, who was infamously humiliated by Yadav Sr’s men years ago, Mulayam can only be in the opposite camp. As such, the bloodiest caste strifes in Uttar Pradesh are seen between Yadavs and Dalits.