After dominating the Samjawadi Party (SP) organisation since its foundation 25 years ago, party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, for the time, is facing a challenge to ‘show’ that the family remains united before crucial assembly polls early next year. The SP patriarch is facing this piquant situation at a time his son Akhilesh Yadav has led the party to a complete term in government for the first time, maintaining his image of ‘clean and youth leader’. Now a section of party leaders is demanding that Mulayam name Akhilesh as national president and give him the power to decide party affairs and the election campaign.
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In this context, Mulayam (77), Lok Sabha member from Azamgarh, is struggling to maintain unity in the ‘parivar’. Mulayam was first elected to the Uttar Pradesh assembly from Jaswant Nagar seat in Etawah on the Socialist Party ticket first time in 1967. He was a three-time MLA before he first rose to national attention as the Minister of Cooperative Affairs in the Janata government of 1977. When he lost in 1980, like many other Janata Party leaders, he found a place in the UP Legislative Council.
Mulayam is the only leader in the state to have been leader of opposition in both Houses. He has served as CM thrice (1989-1991, 1993-1995 and 2003-2007), been an MLA eight times, and is now into his fifth term as an MP.
While he took over as CM for the first time as a Janata Dal leader, he floated the SP in 1992 with colleagues like Beni Prasad Verma and Reoti Raman Singh after the Janata Dal disintegrated. The same year, Ramgopal Yadav was elected to the Rajya Sabha while brother Shivpal Yadav was Etawah Cooperative Bank chairman at the time. Two years after the 2007 loss to Mayawati, Mulayam began encouraging Akhilesh, by then an MP, to spend as much time as he could in Lucknow, meeting party leaders and workers from across the state. By the 2012 assembly polls, Akhilesh had developed a reach across the state in the party, particularly as a “youth leader”.
Mulayam has not only maintained his effective presence in UP politics for nearly 50 years, he has also settled 17 other family members into public life and successfully displayed them as ‘united’ upto now. So far, he has managed to juggle the sons, daughters-in-law, brothers, cousins, nephews, nieces, grand-nephews reasonably well, adjusting here, re-adjusting there to find a position for each.
However, as the party heads into a difficult electoral battle, it is showing the first signs of a serious and public rift.
The differences within the party come out first time on the issue of merger of Quami Ekta Dal (QED) with the SP. Akhilesh opposed that merger while Mulayam’s brother Shivpal Singh Yadav promoted it. Under pressure from Akhilesh, SP called off the merger in June but the Mulayam gave the go ahead to the merger earlier this month and left Akhilesh in an embarrassing situation.
More differences surfaced when Mulayam removed Akhilesh from the post of party state president and replaced him with Shivpal, a day after Akhilesh sacked two ministers Gayatri Prasad Prajapati and Raj Kishore Singh from his cabinet reportedly on complaints of corruption. Akhilesh then stripped Shivpal of key portfolios.
“But Mulayam saw to it that most of these key portfolios were restored to Shivpal and Prajapati was back in the cabinet, ignoring the opinions of Akhilesh,” said a SP leader. Since then there has been trouble in the party with Shivpal as state president expelling seven senior youth leaders close to Akhilesh, forming his state team and demoting Akhilesh’s loyalist leaders Naresh Uttam and SRS Yadav in that team. Shivpal had also had expelled MLC Arvind Pratap Yadav, who is nephew of party national general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav on charges of indiscipline.
Following the feud within the party, Akhilesh postponed his Samajwadi Vikas Rath Yatra –that he had earlier announced to start from October 3-and Mulayam too canceled his first election meeting scheduled in Azamgarh on October 6. Now Akhilesh has decided that to take out his yatra from Lucknow on November 3, signalling he may skip the party’s silver jubilee celebration slated on November 5 in Lucknow. Shivpal has named Gayatri Prasad Prajapati as the convener of that celebration programme that is crucial for the party ahead of assembly polls and where Mulayam will try show that the ‘Samajwadi Parivar’ is united.
Last week, Mulayam surprised the party cadre by refraining from naming Akhilesh as the party’s CM for the coming assembly elections. Later, Ram Gopal met and demanded that Mulayam name Akhilesh as the CM. Two days later, the party announced that Akhilesh will be face of party in 2017 assembly elections.
In the meanwhile, Akhilesh continues to display his isolation and resentment with the state of affairs in the party, publicly. He has a new office for his loyalists at Janeshwar Mishra Trust building and has said he is not in the know of ticket distribution.
Another possible grouse he has is Mulayam giving a Rajya Sabha ticket to former party MP Amar Singh and appointing him party national general secretary against the wishes of Ram Gopal Yadav and Akhilesh who indirectly addressed Amar as the ‘outsider’.
Mulayam said to party workers last month, “Hamare rehte party mein koi phut nai ho sakti.” (There can be no division in the party while I am here,) and the party will be hoping he has spoken the truth.