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The power bahus of Uttar Pradesh

By Monali Sarkar
Last updated on: January 09, 2017 20:36 IST
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The kings of the ruling family of India's heartland -- father Mulayam Singh Yadav, Samajwadi party supremo, and son Akhilesh Yadav, UP chief minister -- are at war.
And as on any chessboard, the queens have emerged as the power centres.
Monali Sarkar introduces us to Dimple Yadav and Aparna Yadav.

Yadav BahusYadav Bahus

IMAGE: From left, Aparna Yadav with Dimple and Akhilesh Yadav at a trial run of the Lucknow Metro in December 2016. Photograph: Sandeep Pal

The bahus of the ruling family of Uttar Pradesh have three things in common.

One, their father-in-law, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, had to give up his well-known abhorrence for women in politics for the two of them.

Two, they are key players in the political power struggle that has captured the country's imagination.

And three, they are both women from the hills of Uttarakhand, clearly not Yadav terrain.

The commonalities between the two seem to end there.

The elder Yadav bahu, Dimple, comes across as an introvert.

The younger Yadav bahu, Aparna, seems to be a bit of a daredevil.

Dimple is the wife of Akhilesh Yadav, MSY's elder son and the Uttar Pradesh chief minister.

Aparna is the wife of Prateek Yadav, MSY's son from his second wife and one who has no interest in politics.

Dimple is a Member of Parliament, but ensures it is her husband who remains in the spotlight.

Aparna will step into politics by contesting the coming state assembly elections from the Lucknow Cantonment constituency and many view her as the lynchpin of the ongoing family feud.

What makes Dimple and Aparna tick and what influence do they have in the ongoing feud?

Dimple Yadav

Dimple Yadav

IMAGE: Dimple Yadav, centre, is the MP from Kannauj, Uttar Pradesh. Photograph: Kind courtesy Akhilesh Yadav/

Dimple, 38, is the daughter of Champa Rawat and retired Colonel R C Singh Rawat, who live in Uttarakhand away from the public eye.

She grew up in army cantonments across the country and remained far away from politics until she met Akhilesh when she was a commerce student at Lucknow University and married him in 1999.

MSY was opposed -- why are we not surprised? -- to the marriage -- according to The Telegraph, it was 'because she was a Thakur' and he saw in the union 'an affront to his OBC politics' -- but gave in reportedly after Amar Singh convinced him and Akhilesh's grandmother approved the match.

Dimple Yadav

IMAGE: Dimple won her Lok Sabha seat after Akhilesh Yadav gave it up to become chief minister. Photograph: Sandeep Pal

Akhilesh and Dimple were in their honeymoon phase when a by-election were announced to the Kannauj Lok Sabha constituency; MSY tasked Akhilesh with securing the seat. And he did.

For the next decade, Dimple remained in the political shadows. But in 2009 Akhilesh had to give up the Firozabad Lok Sabha seat to retain the Kannauj constituency.

Akhilesh recommended that Dimple be fielded from the Samajwadi Party in the by-election.

Though MSY was opposed to the move, he had to eventually blink.

Dimple, with her lack of political experience and oratorical skills, lost the seat to actor-turned-politician Raj Babbar.

She made a comeback in 2012, this time with the Lok Sabha seat from Kannauj that Akhilesh gave up when he became chief minister.

She retained the seat in the 2014 general election when the BJP swept through the state.

Dimple Yadav with Ratan Tata

IMAGE: Dimple and Akhilesh Yadav with business tycoon Ratan Tata, right. Photograph: Kind courtesy Akhilesh Yadav/

Dimple, the mother of three, might still not be much of a politician, but she certainly has the instinct to spot family politics.

It is widely speculated that she was the one who warned Akhilesh about the conspiracy brewing in his family as early as 2012 -- soon after he became CM.

Akhilesh, it has been reported, initially shrugged off her warning, but was soon persuaded to see what was happening.

And the events of the past few months have proven that Dimple was right.

Dimple Yadav

IMAGE: The jury is still out on Dimple the politician, but she has proven that she has the instinct to spot family politics. Photograph: Kind courtesy Akhilesh Yadav/

The Yadav family power struggle has pit brother against brother, father against son, uncle against nephew, and stepmother against stepson.

Among other things, it has also seen Akhilesh being suspended from his own party and then being reinstated.

Through it all, Dimple has been by his side.

Yadav family

IMAGE: Dimple Yadav balances Akhilesh Yadav's image on social media by adding candid and non-political photographs of him. Photographs: Kind courtesy Akhilesh Yadav/

Not only does Dimple play an advisory role for Akhilesh, she also monitors his social media presence. And does so efficiently.

'While the Yadav family fought, Dimple was involved in an aggressive social media campaign where she successfully changed the image of Akhilesh Yadav and helped increase his popularity,' said a report in The Quint.

Akhilesh had once said in an interview it is Dimple who gives him the strength and support he needs to fight his battles.

Aparna Yadav

Aparna Yadav

IMAGE: Aparna Yadav, the non-traditional younger bahu of the Yadav clan. Photograph: Kind courtesy Aparna Bisht Yadav/

Aparna Yadav, who is in her late 20s, is the daughter of journalist Arvind Singh Bisht, who was appointed state information commissioner in 2014.

Unlike Dimple, she grew up hobnobbing with political bigwigs -- including MSY, who was friends with her father -- in Lucknow.

And it inspired her to be a diplomat. Aparna studied study political science, modern history and English for her bachelor's degree, and did her postgraduation in international relations at the University of Manchester.

It was during her time in England that her relationship with Prateek, who was doing his master's in management at Leeds University, grew.

Like Dimple, Aparna too hailed from Uttarakhand's Thakur community, but when Prateek and she decided to get married, MSY didn't have much ground to resist the marriage.

Aparna and Prateek Yadav

IMAGE: Aparna and Prateek's relationship grew when they were both studying in the UK. Photograph: Kind courtesy Aparna Bisht Yadav/

Aparna and Prateek have a daughter.

'Sadhana Gupta, Mulayam's second wife and Akhilesh's stepmother, wanted her son Prateek to be Mulayam's successor,' The Telegraph was told.

But when Prateek showed no inclination of entering politics, it fell to Aparna to do so.

Akhilesh's uncle Shivpal Yadav, who wanted to undermine the nephew, leaped at the chance Aparna, a family member, offered his own ambitions.

The party declared her nomination from the Lucknow Cantonment Assembly seat as early as last March.

Interestingly, the SP has never won this seat in the past.

Aparna Yadav

IMAGE: Aparna Yadav is a trained classical singer and doesn't shy away from sharing her non-political side on social media. Photographs: Kind courtesy Aparna Bisht Yadav/

Unlike Dimple, who fought her first election battle from the sidelines, Aparna began creating her own identity -- political and personal -- right from the start.

While Dimple has seemingly remained within the bounds of a traditional political family, Aparna has shown multiple facets of her persona.

Her social media feed includes photographs of her performing at music concerts (she was trained in Indian classical music at the Bhatkhande Music Institute in Lucknow), sky diving, playing with pugs and even enjoying an ice cream on the streets of Hazratganj like any other Lucknow resident.

And she hasn't shied away from speaking about being a girl who wore jeans and boots and couldn't even tie a sari till she entered the political world.

Aparna Yadav

IMAGE: Aparna and Prateek with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Photograph: Kind courtesy Aparna Bisht Yadav/

Politically, Aparna stepped across political and traditional boundaries when she clicked a dualfie with Prime Minister Narenda Modi at a family wedding and later met Home Minister Rajnath Singh and touched his feet.

She also took stands on social media that were pro-BJP ideologically. 'The proclivity towards the BJP and the PM, many say, was her way to 'arm-twist' the family into giving her a ticket,' the Hindustan Times noted.

She told them, 'I have my own voice, my own opinion, and that will always remain so. But I can also convince people with my 'feminine energy'. You don't have to be like Mayawati to survive in UP politics.'

Evidently in Aparna's case, you also don't have to be Dimple Yadav to do so.

When MSY made headlines with his sexist rhetoric on rapes, Dimple had defended the family patriarch.

Aparna, however, has not shied away from taking a different stand.

'Women need to stop thinking that it's their fault,' she was quoted as saying, 'We need to question the boys and not the girls.'

'She has nerves of steel,' according to Prateek. He told The Indian Express that he was confident of her success: 'If she has taken up an issue and started working on it, she will be on top of it.'

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