Deepening the crisis in the ruling Samajwadi Party in the run-up to the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, state party president Shivpal Yadav, engaged in a bitter power tussle with nephew Akhilesh Yadav, expelled minister Tej Narain aka Pawan Pandey who is considered close to the Chief Minister. Hours later, Akhilesh met Governor Ram Naik at the Raj Bhavan. While the meeting was officially described as a courtesy call, sources said the prevailing situation did figure in the discussions.
Forest minister and first-time MLA from Ayodhya, Pandey was expelled from the party for six years for allegedly assaulting SP MLC Ashu Malik who is considered close to Mulayam Singh Yadav and Shivpal.
In a letter to Akhilesh, Shivpal recommended that Pandey be sacked from the cabinet because he had assaulted Malik at 5, Kalidas Marg — the official residence of the Chief Minister in Lucknow — on October 24.
Incidentally, the expulsion order was also copied to the Lok Sabha MP of Faizabad — Lallu Singh of BJP — and all MLAs, former MLAs and former MPs of Faizabad district.
The incident involving Pandey reportedly took place after a meeting of party leaders, called by Mulayam Singh at the SP headquarters, where Akhilesh had named Malik, alleging that Rajya Sabha member Amar Singh had got a report published in The Times of India describing him as Aurangzeb and Mulayam Singh as Shahjahan.
Since he had come too close to Akhilesh on the stage, Malik was stopped and taken away by the Chief Minister’s securitymen.
Malik later alleged he was beaten up by Pandey at the Chief Minister’s residence. He also met Mulayam Singh Tuesday to complain about the alleged assault.
Reached for comments, Pandey denied the allegation and said he had not assaulted Malik. “This is a conspiracy against me. No such incident happened,” Pandey said.
On his expulsion from the party, Pandey said, “I will continue to strengthen the Samajwadi Party, Netaji (Mulayam Singh) and Akhilesh Yadav. My target is to ensure Akhilesh becomes Chief Minister again after the 2017 polls. The SP is in my heart and spirit and cannot be removed by merely a letter from Shivpal Singh Yadav.”
Pandey is the seventh prominent face to be expelled from the SP by Shivpal in a month. Last Saturday, Shivpal expelled Udaiveer Singh, MLC from Mainpuri and a close aide of Akhilesh, for his alleged “undignified conduct”. Three days earlier, Udaiveer wrote to Mulayam Singh, alleging that Shivpal and others were hatching a conspiracy against Akhilesh.
MLCs Arvind Singh, Anand Bhadauria, Sunil Singh ‘Sajan’ and Sanjay Lathar were also expelled on the charge of misconduct after they staged a demonstration outside Mulayam Singh’s Lucknow residence, demanding that Akhilesh be brought back as state party president.
On Sunday, Shivpal expelled Mulayam Singh’s cousin and Rajya Sabha member Ram Gopal Yadav from the party for alleged anti-party activities. Ram Gopal is close to Akhilesh. Shivpal told reporters that Ram Gopal was in league with the BJP.