The battlefield of the epic war of Mahabharata was Kurukshetra. Conflict arose from a dynastic succession struggle between two groups of cousins, the Kauravas and the Pandavas. In its modern-day retelling, the battlefield has shifted 716 kilometres away, to Lucknow where Uttar Pradesh’s ruling Samajwadi Party appears to be headed for a split as chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and his party chief and father Mulayam Singh are engaged in an open face-off. Both have sacked each other's loyalists Shivpal Yadav and Ramgopal Yadav.
If we draw a comparison between the leaders of Samajwadi Party and the characters of our epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana, here's what Mulayam’s family will look like:
Mulayam Singh Yadav would be the Dhritarashtra of this modern-day Mahabharata, who seems to have been blinded by his love for his brother and second wife, Sadhna — both of whom appear to be plotting a coup against the SP's elder son, Akhilesh. He also appears to be blind to his brother's lust for power. The SP chief is trying to play peacemaker and asking both his brother and son to set their differences aside for the sake of the party. But his likes and dislikes are much too obvious.
|The CM's troublemaker uncle Shivpal Yadav, like Lakshman, is refusing to leave his elder brother's side.|
Akhilesh Yadav maybe asserting himself now, but he is at best the ill-fated Abhimanyu, forced into the chakravyuha by his uncle. Caught between his father and uncle Shivpal, Akhilesh is rebelling, but may not know how to save his party or the government.
Abhimanyu was treacherously killed by his uncles, the Kauravas, when he got caught in the chakravyuha. Akhilesh too may lose his government, but has won many admirers just like the young Abhimanyu.
In Mahabharata, Bhishma Pitamah liked the Pandavas, but he had to support Dhuryodhana as he lived all his life following laws and rules he himself set. Like Mahabharata's Bhishma, Ram Gopal Yadav stood by rookie Akhilesh even when he was elevated as chief minister, bypassing veterans like Shivpal. Ram Gopal Yadav has been sacked from the party, but hasn’t relented from his position yet. Rather, his unceremonious ouster has made his support to Akhilesh more resolute.
While Ramgopal Yadav stands by young prince Akhilesh, the chief minister's troublemaker uncle Shivpal Yadav, like Lakshman, is refusing to leave his elder brother's side. Shivpal may be eying the top job in Uttar Pradesh, but his utterances and behaviour suggest that he is only interested in serving elder brother Mulayam Singh.
It was Shakuni mama in Mahabharata who had engineered the war between brothers to claim the throne. In Uttar Pradesh, Amar Singh has become the raison d'être for the convulsions wrecking the Samajwadi Party. Though Amar Singh is not a blood relative of the Yadavs, Akhilesh seems to be calling him the enemy within.
In the Mahabharata, Shakuni, uncle to the Kaurava princes, started the game of dice that triggered a bloody battle. Similarly, many insiders in SP suggest Amar Singh was out to take advantage of fault lines in Mulayam's immediate family.
As in Ramayana, the fight in UP too has a Kaikeyi — seemingly brought to life in Lucknow by Sadhana Gupta, the second wife of Mulayam Singh Yadav and stepmother to Akhilesh. She has been accused of plotting against his elder son to ensure her son Prateek is in power — much like Kaikeyi forced her husband Dasharath to send his eldest son Ram into exile and make their son Bharat the crown prince.
The battle of Mahabharata ended in 18 days. Simmering tension in the Samajwadi Party erupted in June with the Quami Ekta Dal merger. Shivpal was credited for the feat, but this did not go down well with Akhilesh, who wants to shield his clean image. In retaliation, Akhilesh sacked Cabinet minister Balram Yadav for his role in the merger.
Since then the sequence of truce and war has refused to cease. Now the question is, when and how will the game of thrones in Uttar Pradesh's end?