Just when you thought the UP elections were getting too long and boring, the battle within the Samajwadi Party has spiced things up.
Yes, the bitter drama in Uttar Pradesh's first family is not over yet.
While Akhilesh Yadav and wife Dimple continue to dominate SP poll rallies, party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav is still smarting over his humiliation and has taken a back seat.
The senior Yadav has remained consciously missing from the poll tamasha for the first time in his decades-long political career.
Unlike the 2012 Assembly polls, he is no longer the face of Samajwadi Party, criss-crossing the state and addressing over 300 rallies across the state. His brother Shivpal too has been mostly missing.
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If the rumour mills are to be believed, both Akhilesh and Shivpal are waiting for the opportune moment to strike at each other.
Despite his best efforts, the SP patriarch who has been reduced to a seemingly non-existent entity, failed to bring the warring uncle and nephew together.
To add insult to injury, Akhilesh entered into an alliance with the Congress, much against the wishes of his father. Left with little option, Mulayam decided to keep himself out of Akhilesh's rallies.
He, however, ventured out twice, only to campaign for daughter-in-law and younger son Prateek's wife, Aparna Yadav, and brother Shivpal.
Mulayam perhaps had greater political ambitions for himself at the Centre when he elevated his son Akhikesh to the CM's post. But things have changed for this old warhorse now. And there seems more to his absence than just meets the eye.
If people close to the family are to be believed, the veteran leader is not much in demand even among his partymen.
While most SP candidates jostled to get either Akhilesh "bhaiya" or Dimple "bhabhi" to campaign for them, there were a few takers for Mulayam's fading charms.
The senior leader's flip flops over party leadership and alliance with Congress made matters worse for him, pushing more and more partymen further towards the Akhilesh camp.
While Akhilesh exudes confidence in the alliance with Congress, his critics feel undermining his father's experience may cost him his future in Uttar Pradesh.
And with Mayawati's BSP lurking in the corner to make a dent in the SP-Congress Muslim votebank (the BSP has given the largest number of tickets to Muslims in the ongoing Assembly elections – 100 of the 403 seats), Akhilesh, many believe, might regret his choices later.
The BJP, on the other hand too, is pulling out all the stops. After the debacle in Bihar, the saffron party is treading carefully by taking everyone, except Muslims, along. The BJP's social engineering coupled with "Modi factor" has posed a far bigger challenge for Akhilesh.
Meanwhile, Mulayam's apparent disinterest has set tongues wagging that the SP veteran opted to stay out of campaigning fearing an imminent defeat — something that will be proved only after the poll results come out on March 11.