A day after he divested uncle Shivpal Singh Yadav of key ministerial portfolios after the latter replaced him as the Uttar Pradesh SP president on the instructions of party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav Wednesday skipped a party meeting in Delhi while acknowledging “there may be problems in the government”. He also said “at times one has to apply his own mind”.
In Saifai, the family home in the western UP district of Etawah, Shivpal too hit back. Asked who would be the chief ministerial face of the party in 2017, he said “it will be decided by the party’s parliamentary board and Netaji (Mulayam Singh)”.
The family turf war deepened Wednesday when Akhilesh removed Chief Secretary Deepak Singhal, said to be close to Shivpal, and later took away key portfolios of his uncle.
On Thursday, Akhilesh said: “There may be problems in the government, but not in the family.” Mentioning interference from “outsiders”, he wondered how the party would function. While he did not elaborate, party insiders pointed to a dinner hosted in Delhi last Sunday by Amar Singh which was attended, among others, by Mulayam Singh, Shivpal and Singhal. Akhilesh chose to stay away.
“Those whom I have removed… people are well aware of their image,” Akhilesh said. He was apparently referring to mining minister Gayatri Prajapati, panchayati raj minister Rajkishore Singh and Singhal — men considered close to his father and uncle.
Akhilesh said he will follow the directions of his father. “If I have taken any decision, it was in consultation with Netaji, but at times one has to apply his own mind and I too took some decisions on my own,” he said.
He announced that he would take out a Samajwadi Vikas Rath Yatra. “From Oct 3, Samajwadi Vikas rath Yatra – Vikas se vijay ki ore,” Akhilesh tweeted with a photograph of him in a bus. It is seen as a move to counter Shivpal who, as state unit chief, is supposed to now plan the 2017 poll campaign.
Meanwhile, Amar Singh rejected the suggestion that he was the “outsider” Akhilesh mentioned. “Aap kitna bhi kahein Akhilesh ne yeh kaha hai, mai maanne ko taiyyar nahin. Aaj tak usne vyaktigat roop se mere baare mei ek shabd nahin kaha (No matter how many times you say that Akhilesh said this, I am not ready to accept it. Till date he has never spoken out against me).”
Amar Singh, whose return to the party fold has been credited to Shivpal, said he has a “brotherly relationship” with Mulayam Singh. “If Mulayam Singhji says I am the culprit, I will accept it. I met Mulayam Singhji yesterday, I share brotherly relations with him,” he said.
The developments since Wednesday have created ripples in Lucknow and sent conflicting signals to the ruling party.
Akhilesh had been named state party president by Mulayam Singh weeks before the 2012 assembly elections. Shivpal’s appointment as the new state unit chief is considered significant because he will have a say in decisions of the party in the run-up to the 2017 elections — from selection of candidates to planning the poll campaign.
The party has already rolled out a Mulayam Sandesh Rath Yatra and the SP chief is set to launch the election campaign from Azamgarh, his Lok Sabha constituency, where he will address a rally on October 7.
A section in the party said Shivpal’s appointment by Mulayam Singh was his way of placating his younger brother following the removal of people considered close to him. But others in the party maintained it was done only to clearly define the roles Shivpal and Akhilesh would play in the coming days — Shivpal would lead the organisation while Akhilesh would be the party’s chief ministerial face.
Many in the party have always considered Shivpal as the No. 2 in the SP hierarchy. He also played a key role in attempting alliances with other parties. Party sources said Shivpal had supported the merger of Quami Ekta Dal (QED) with the SP. But that merger was called off by the SP parliamentary board, reportedly under pressure from Akhilesh who did not want to have anything to do with the QED, founded by UP strongman Mukhtar Ansari and his family. MLA from Mau, Ansari is currently in jail.
Last month, Mulayam Singh backed Shivpal and pulled up the state government when he said there were complaints about several ministers being corrupt. Pointing to corruption within the ruling establishment, Shivpal had threatened to resign. Addressing SP workers on August 15, Mulayam said the party would split if Shivpal were to leave.