RAM GOPAL YADAV, who has thrown his weight behind his nephew Akhilesh Yadav in the ongoing tussle within the Samajwadi Party family, is one of the power centres in the party and the Uttar Pradesh government, a leader whom his cousin Mulayam Singh Yadav consults before any major decision.
Ram Gopal, 70, known as “Professor saab” is national general secretary in the SP and considered the party’s face in Delhi, after Mulayam. He might not be known as a mass leader but heads a team of 19 MPs, the third largest group in the Rajya Sabha after the Congress and BJP.
In the SP’s last national parliamentary board meeting, held in Lucknow in June, Mulayam had assigned Ram Gopal the responsibility of drafting the list with the new national executive committee.
“The role Ram Gopal is playing in Delhi is similar to the organisational role that Netaji (Mulayam) has given his brother Shivpal Yadav in UP,” said a party leader. Another leader said, “They have both been working in the party organisation with Mulayam for several years. While Mulayam has kept Shivpal to state politics, he jas preferred Ram Gopal on the national scene.”
Shivpal and Ram Gopal are seen as having drifted apart from Shivpal after Ram Gopal’s son Akshay was fielded from Ferozabad in 2014 and won the Lok Sabha seat. Considered close to both Mulayam and Akhilesh, Ram Gopal chose to target Shivpal Thursday while stressing that Akhilesh shouldn’t have been removed as state party chief.
“He (Shivpal) is the same person who used Netaji’s simplicity in being made an in-charge of the party. There is no such post in SP,” Ram Gopal said.Told about this, Shivpal responded, “The party president can take any decision. It is there in the party constitution.”
In the infighting that started with sacking of two ministers, Ram Gopal landed in Lucknow Thursday morning and held a closed-door meeting with Akhilesh at the latter’s home. He supported Akhilesh’s argument about ‘outsiders’ interfering in party and government affairs. Party leaders say Akhilesh and Ram Gopal are referring to Rajya Sabha MP Amar Singh who is considered very close to Mulayam and Shivpal.
During the party’s parliamentary board meeting held in May in Lucknow, Ram Gopal is said to have strongly opposed proposal to choose Amar Singh as a Rajya Sabha candidate. Mulayam later held a separate meeting with Ram Gopal and convinced him to consent to Amar Singh’s candidacy.
The bitterness did not end. Last month, Amar Singh said in a statement that those close to Mulayam were being “insulted” in the party and he is made to sit on backbenches with party leaders like Reoti Raman Singh and Beni Prasad Verma in the Rajya Sabha, while leaders like Naresh Agarwal take the front seat.
Mulayam hands over all feedback and survey reports on the party to Ram Gopal for an assessment, sources said. In the Bihar elections, Ram Gopal had been against Mulayam’s wish to join the grand alliance and after the SP pulled out, Ram Gopal had said a merger with the grand alliance parties would have been like “signing a death warrant.”
In October 2015, Ram Gopal had lashed out at UP Governor Ram Naik, calling him a ‘RSS swayamsewak’ after the latter had spoken over communal incidents law and order in the state. And when the governor took up complaints of mass appointment of officials to prime posts from one caste, Yadavs, it was Ram Gopal who released a list of all officials including Yadavs to argue against the allegation.
A postgraduate in physics and political science and a PhD, Ram Gopal gives credit Mulayam with his entry in politics. He started as a party head at Basrehar block in Etawah district in 1988.
Elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1992, SP general secretary since 1996, Ram Gopal was also elected to the Lok Sabha once: in 2004 from Sambhal.