No end to crisis in Samajwadi Party, but many in party rally behind Akhilesh Yadav

Minutes into Mulayam Singh’s press conference at the party headquarters in Lucknow Tuesday, supporters of Akhilesh began raising slogans outside.

Written by Ashutosh Bhardwaj | Lucknow | Updated: October 26, 2016 8:15 pm
mulayam, mulayam singh yadav, akhilesh akhilesh yadav, shivpal, samajwadi party, yadav family, samajwadi party family, uttar pradesh politics, uttar pradesh assembly elections, uttar pradesh news, india news Mulayam with Shivpal in Lucknow. (Source: Express photo by Vishal Srivastav)

A day after SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav attempted a patch-up between his son, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, and brother Shivpal Yadav who was sacked as minister by Akhilesh, the crisis in the party ruling Uttar Pradesh seemed far from over.

Minutes into Mulayam Singh’s press conference at the party headquarters in Lucknow Tuesday, supporters of Akhilesh began raising slogans outside. Dismissing reports about the reinstatement of four ministers sacked Sunday, Mulayam Singh had already conceded that the decision to reinstall them “rests with the Chief Minister”.

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Although the SP chief reiterated that the next Chief Minister would be decided by legislators after the assembly elections in the state, Akhilesh backers in the party refused to cede ground. Supporters defied the two ageing brothers and demanded that Akhilesh be brought back as UP party president.

As conflicting signals emanated from the SP, one message was loud and clear — Akhilesh seemed to be emerging stronger from every round of the power struggle in the family.

First, the Chief Minister has managed the support of an overwhelming majority of MLAs and ground workers. Second, his PR team, which also includes top bureaucrats, has been on an overdrive, letting everyone know that an “honest and reformist administrator” is “fighting a corrupt and decaying old order”.

‘Not one spot on him in five years’. That’s the tagline of his PR machinery which is blaming the other camp for the ills of the state and party — from corruption to hurdles in governance to communal violence.

Third, party members across camps are being told that their future lies in a young face, not Shivpal or Mulayam.

Youths standing outside Shivpal’s residence were clearly distraught: “A wrong message has been spread that Mantriji is a goonda. Can you cite even one instance against him,” asked Aniket Srivastava.

Shivpal’s supporters are aware they can only sulk, and cannot oppose the Chief Minister. “He is our Mukhya Mantri. We will contest (the elections) under him. But others too should be respected,” Srivastava said.

Shivpal’s team concedes that “the CM’s PR team” has had a head start.

In the other camp, Akhilesh supporters seem very sure who has the advantage. Emboldened, they have been raising slogans in the presence of Mulayam Singh and Shivpal to make clear who’s their next boss. They now seek total control — the posts of Chief Minister, state party president and the right to distribute poll tickets.

“We are not making any unjust demand. A son has a natural right over his father’s legacy. Chacha (Shivpal) is there, but he must give up the post (state party president) now,” said Amir Ahmad Siddiqui, one of the SP members raising slogans outside the party office.

There were women supporters in the crowd too, including state women commission member Sheela Chaturvedi.

“Since we will seek votes only in the name of the Chief Minister, he should have the right to decide the tickets,” said Tarannum Parveen, state secretary of the SP’s women wing.

Like their leader Akhilesh, they have no love for Amar Singh, recently made party general secretary and sent to Rajya Sabha by Mulayam Singh. Members also link the escalation of the present feud to Singh’s elevation.

Many in the state bureaucracy too have rallied behind Akhilesh, realising that the younger Yadav is easier to deal with than the senior stalwarts of the clan.

But such a division in the ranks of the party, government and administration also means that a resolution won’t happen soon.

Word had spread Tuesday that Akhilesh would attend Mulayam’s press conference — it was meant to signal that all was well in the family again. Shivpal and other leaders of his camp, including Gayatri Prajapati who was first sacked from the cabinet and later reinducted by Akhilesh, reached the venue early. But Akhilesh chose to stay away, his absence a clear message.