Lucknow: Since her election to parliament in 2012, Dimple Yadav has exhibited few signs of political interest or stamina. She has rarely spoken in the Lok Sabha, and in Uttar Pradesh, she has limited her political ventures to accompanying her husband, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, most recently on his campaign tour that has been abruptly suspended by a prolonged contest with his father over who will run their Samajwadi Party.
- Akhilesh Yadav, busy in feud with father, keen on Congress alliance
- Wife Dimple has spoken to Priyanka Gandhi about alliance: sources
- Akhilesh Yadav wants Dimple, an MP, to take big role in campaign
But now, sources say, it is Dimple Yadav, 38, who is handling a major assignment for her husband. Sources in the Samajwadi Party say that she met Priyanka Gandhi, who holds no post within the Congress, but as a member of the party's First Family, is a major decision-maker, in Delhi a few days ago. Both Priyanka Gandhi's brother, Rahul, who is Congress Vice-President and Akhilesh Yadav want to ally for the Uttar Pradesh election against the wishes of many in their parties.
"She is educated, considerate, development-oriented, and her contribution will be very important," said Congress MLA Aradhana Mishra amid reports of Dimple Yadav's prelim discussion with Priyanka Gandhi.
In Rahul Gandhi's case, it is seniors like Ghulam Nabi Azad who are opposed to a partnership with the Samajwadi Party till Akhilesh Yadav and his father and party patriarch Mulayam Singh call time on their feud. For Akhilesh Yadav, the collaboration with the Congress is among the top disputes that have estranged him from his father, who is opposed to any alliance before the election is held.
The melodramatic face-off with his father has placed Akhilesh Yadav in the position of deciding whether to spin off his own political party. It has also made it impossible for him to have the space and time to be able to confer privately with Mr Gandhi, said sources close to the young Chief Minister, and that's why he has enrolled his wife as an envoy.
They added that Dimple Yadav will also play a much larger role in campaigning than she has in earlier elections, and that if the Congress proposal sticks, her husband will try to place her at rallies and public meetings with Priyanka Gandhi.
Ms Yadav met her husband as a young student in Lucknow and they married in 1999 when she was 21. It was 10 years later that she first ran for parliament. She was defeated by actor-turned-politician Raj Babbar but in 2012, she was elected unopposed from Akhilesh Yadav's constituency Kannauj after he vacated it to become a member of the Uttar Pradesh legislature and serve as Chief Minister.
Ahead of winning Kannauj, Dimple Yadav's public appeals were fairly basic: "I am your daughter-in-law, your sister-in-law, your daughter. Choose me," she said at a rally.
"I wasn't very keen to enter politics," she said in an interview to NDTV after being elected. "This is a big responsibility, let me see how much I can take it forward."
As the election approaches, at the Samajwadi Party office in Lucknow, Ayushi Shrivastav is in charge of the store that sells party memorabilia. "These days, photos of Dimple Yadav are really selling," she said.
As her husband's differences with her father-in-law scaled up to a point where the Samajwadi Party appears ready to split - both sides have filed competing claims for rights to use the party symbol of the cycle, a move that shouts of irreconcilable differences - Dimple Yadav said in November that "every person has a role to play in life."
It's a larger role that's now being readied for her. And given the crisis in her family, it will require the sort of political acumen and maneuvering that she has shown no signs of thus far.