The Samajwadi Party leadership on Friday scrambled to bridge the widening internal rift that has threatened to singe its prospects in the assembly polls early next year with SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, his brother Shivpal Yadav and his son Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav insisting that there were “no differences within the family”.
Mulayam, Akhilesh and Shivpal also held a one-hour compromise meeting at the party chief’s residence — the first involving all three since the crisis broke out. According to sources, it was agreed that Shivpal would get back his key portfolios, his supporter Gayatri Prajapati would be re-inducted in the cabinet, and both Shivpal and Akhilesh will have a role in the selection of candidates for the elections.
Sources said that no decision was taken on Shivpal’s resignation or his status in the cabinet and party. Shivpal told reporters that he had placed all issues before Mulayam who would convey his decision by Saturday.
It was Shivpal’s elevation as state party chief on September 13, replacing Akhilesh, which triggered the latest crisis within the party, with the Chief Minister retaliating by divesting his uncle of all portfolios that he held as a minister.
The crisis deepened last night when Shivpal quit the party post after Ram Gopal Yadav, party general secretary and cousin of Mulayam, described the decision to remove Akhilesh as a “mistake”.
On Friday, Akhilesh admitted that he “felt bad” about his removal. At the same time, Mulayam and Akhilesh insisted that there was no rift within their organisation.
Echoing that line, Shivpal asked supporters that the party needs to be strengthened. “We are with Netaji (Mulayam). His message is an order for us. We will not let the party be weakened,” he said.
Addressing party workers, Mulayam said, “There can be no division in the party, till I am there… We have a big family, differences may occur… There is no fight between Shivpal Yadav and Akhilesh.”
He added, “Every father and son faces issues…There is no rift.”
Akhilesh adopted a similar line at a private event, saying, “It’s election time. We should all come together and work. There is no fight between Ramgopal Yadav, Akhilesh and Shivpal.”
Akhilesh pointed out that he had rejected the resignation of Shivpal and would comply with Mulayam’s direction to re-induct Prajapati, who was sacked last week. “Netaji will find a solution to the crisis and everyone will accept it,” he said. Sources said that Prajapati would be given a portfolio other than mining.
Asked about his removal as the party’s state chief, Akhilesh said, “I felt bad and you saw its effect. If a good person asks for the CM’s post, I am ready to give it up.”
However, the Chief Minister made it clear that he wanted a say in the distribution of tickets in the elections. “I say I will give back everything but then I will say I should have the authority to distribute tickets. It will be my test in the elections,” he said.
Akhilesh also indicated that there were some issues left to be resolved by indirectly hitting out at SP’s Rajya Sabha MP Amar Singh who, his camp has indicated, was fuelling the rift.
“Everyone understands who is this outsider, even you know that. I have told Netaji that if an outsider comes between us, he will be thrown out. Netaji and I have decided that we will not let outsiders drive a wedge between us,” he said.
The latest moves towards a patch-up was preceded by hectic political developments after partymen gathered outside Shivpal’s house in Lucknow and shouted slogans in his support. A number of MLAs and ministers, including Prajapati and Speaker Mata Prasad Pandey, also met Shivpal at his residence.
In his 18-minute speech to party workers, Mulayam said that Akhilesh could not ignore his decisions. “When I ran the government three times as chief minister, was Akhilesh there? When I became defence minister in 1996, was Akhilesh there?”
Mulayam said that he would have become Prime Minister, too, but was deprived of opportunity because of a leader who has now become his “relative”, referring to RJD chief Lalu Prasad. Mulayam said that Lalu had spoken to him over phone this morning and expressed concern about the ongoing situation in SP.
Repeating at least 12 times that there were no differences within party, Mulayam said that Shivpal had worked hard and contributed to strengthening of the party, even as the workers chanted: “Shivpalji ke bare mein bataiye (Speak to us about Shivpal)” .
Mulayam also said that party would declare its candidates for remaining seats to be finalised within four-five days and that he would begin his campaign from Azamgarh next month.