AT THE Samajwadi Party’s district office in Etawah, a large poster showing a smiling Shivpal Yadav with his cousin Ram Gopal Yadav occupies prime space.
Shivpal, the party’s state president, was sacked as a minister last week by his nephew Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, while Ram Gopal was expelled from the party by his cousin just three days ago. So why is that poster still on the wall?
The answer from the home turf of Akhilesh and his father Mulayam Singh Yadav is simple. “Professor saheb (Ram Gopal) has been expelled for the timebeing, no decision is final here. We are waiting,” says Rakesh Yadav, the party’s district spokesperson.
For party workers here, the real tussle is not between “Chacha” Shivpal and “Bhaiya” Akhilesh — it’s Shivpal vs Ram Gopal. And, they say, it’s a feud that has been brewing for a while now, finding echoes in a series of events over the past few months in Etawah. The first clear sign of a rift emerged on August 6 during the general body meeting of the district co-operative bank at the Chaudhary Charan Singh Degree College in Haenvra, they say. That was when Shivpal reportedly said, “Party workers who have indulged in land-grabbing and defaming the party will be put in jail.”
Claims an office-bearer of SP’s Etawah unit: “He was clearly hinting at Arvind Yadav, a nephew of Ram Gopal.”
A week after that incident, Shivpal threatened to resign from the party during a programme in Mainpuri, which led to Mulayam coming out in his support the next day in Lucknow, saying, “If Shivpal quits, the party will be divided.”
On September 13, the day he was first sacked as a minister and appointed state president, Shivpal went to Etawah jail to visit a local journalist, Khadim Abbas, who had been imprisoned five days before, along with his son, on charges of rape.
Abbas, who runs a weekly newspaper, had published a story in August 2012 alleging that Ram Gopal had played a role in the defeat of the SP candidate for the post of Etawah Municipal Council chairman. “I was arrested in a false case on the instructions of a big leader of the party,” alleges Abbas, who is now out on bail.
According to party sources, the rift between the “chacha” and “professor saheb” run deep and has multiple shades.
Says another district office-bearer of the party: “Professor saheb enjoys clout among the bureaucrats, like Amar Singh during the 2003-2007 rule of the party. On the other hand, Shivpal is a man of the organisation and had indicated often in Etawah that government officers do not heed his recommendations.”
Ram Gopal’s supporters here claim that Shivpal’s manner of functioning may create problems for the entire Yadav family. One of them, who owns many petrol pumps in the district, says, “Shivpal has been unable to accept Akhilesh as Chief Minister. Also, he often goes out of the way to grant favours to his people, which could lead to scandals like Vyapam (the recruitment scam in Madhya Pradesh). Professor saheb stops him from doing this, that is the problem.”
Ram Gopal’s supporters also claim that Shivpal’s followers organised a puja conducted by a tantric last November at a Kali temple in Sambhal to realise his dream of becoming the chief minister.
However, Shivpal’s supporters point fingers at Ram Gopal as the man behind the latest crisis. “Professor wants to capture the party at the national level, considering the ill-health of Mulayam. He promotes the anti-Shivpal camp in the district,” says one of them. Party sources say that most of the 51 district units are close to Shivpal. “Hardly a dozen can be said to be controlled by the professor’s men,” says an office-bearer. Krishna Murari Gupta, general secretary of the SP’s Etawah unit, says the party has only one leader — Mulayam. “We are men of Netaji. Jahan Netaji hain, vahin hum hain (Where Netaji is, we are there),” says Gupta.
Says Ashish Rajput, who resigned as the party’s district vice-president in protest over Ram Gopal’s expulsion: “Jal aur kul ke alag hone aur milne mein der nahin lagti. Main kuch bolkar kissi se dushmani nahi lena chahta (Water and family get divided and united within no time. I don’t want to speak against anyone and gain an enemy).” The rival camps are now eagerly waiting for the party’s silver jubilee celebrations on November 5.
“Things will be clear after that,” says Rakesh Yadav, the Etawah spokesperson.