Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, in a jaw-dropping departure from the opposition chorus and his own party line, said he "prayed" for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's return to power, during speeches to mark the last sitting of the current Lok Sabha today before the national election. His supporters swore it was all in humour, but the comment still raised eyebrows.
"I want to congratulate the PM that he tried to move ahead taking everyone along. I hope all members to win and return, and you (PM Modi) become prime minister again," Mulayam Singh, 79, said in the Lok Sabha, sending the house into guffaws. The camera panned to his immediate neighbor, Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, looking surprised, and to PM Modi, chuckling and thumping his desk. The prime minister also folded his hands.
The Yadav father and son have not been on the best of terms over the past two years, during which Akhilesh, 45, staged a coup and took over control of the party founded by his father.
Despite the strain, Mulayam Singh chose to remain by his son's side as his younger brother Shivpal Yadav broke away and set up a rebel outfit.
Mulayam served three times as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state (1989–91, 1993–95, and 2003–07).The SP made a dramatic comeback in the 2002 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, garnering a plurality, but not a majority, of seats. However, after the collapse of a short-lived BSP-BJP coalition government in 2003, the SP put together its own governing coalition, and Yadav became chief minister for the third time. Following the BSP’s trouncing of the SP in the 2007 state assembly elections, Yadav served as leader of opposition in the assembly (2007–09) before being elected again to the Lok Sabha in 2009. In early 2012 the SP won an outright majority in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. Yadav retained his leadership of the party, but he stepped aside to allow his son, Akhilesh Yadav, to become the state’s chief minister. The elder Yadav was reelected in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, but his party could win only five seats in the chamber.