Deepening the family turf war in the ruling Samajwadi Party in the run-up to the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav Tuesday divested uncle Shivpal Singh Yadav of all ministerial portfolios after the latter replaced him as state party president on the instructions of SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Earlier in the day, Akhilesh removed Chief Secretary Deepak Singhal, said to be close to Shivpal and named to the post barely two months ago. Singhal has been told to await a posting while Rahul Prasad Bhatnagar, Principal Secretary (Finance), has been made Chief Secretary.
Hours after Shivpal was named the new state unit chief, Akhilesh took away his portfolios of PWD, irrigation, cooperatives, flood control, land development and water resources, wasteland development, revenue, disaster relief and rehabilitation, and public service management.
A Raj Bhavan press release stated that Governor Ram Naik had re-allocated the portfolios to other ministers on the recommendation of the Chief Minister. Akhilesh has kept PWD under his charge.
The developments, which created ripples in Lucknow and sent conflicting signals to the ruling party, came a day after Akhilesh sacked mining minister Gayatri Prajapati and panchayati raj minister Rajkishore Singh who were considered close to Mulayam Singh.
Akhilesh had been named state party president by Mulayam Singh weeks before the 2012 assembly elections. Shivpal’s appointment as the new state unit chief is considered significant because he will have a say in decisions of the party in the run-up to the 2017 elections — from selection of candidates to planning the poll campaign.
The party has already rolled out a Mulayam Sandesh Rath Yatra and the SP chief is set to launch the election campaign from Azamgarh, his Lok Sabha constituency, where he will address a rally on October 7.
A section in the party said Shivpal’s appointment by Mulayam Singh was his way of placating his younger brother following the removal of people considered close to him. But others in the party maintained it was done only to clearly define the roles Shivpal and Akhilesh would play in the coming days — Shivpal would lead the organisation while Akhilesh would be the party’s chief ministerial face.
Many in the party have always considered Shivpal as the No. 2 in the SP hierarchy. For the record, the letter appointing Shivpal as state party president was issued by SP general secretary Ramgopal Yadav who said Shivpal will strengthen the party with his hard work.
Shivpal also played a key role in attempting alliances with other parties. Party sources said Shivpal had supported the merger of Quami Ekta Dal (QED) with the SP. But that merger was called off by the SP parliamentary board, reportedly under pressure from Akhilesh who did not want to have anything to do with the QED, founded by UP strongman Mukhtar Ansari and his family. MLA from Mau, Ansari is currently in jail.
Shivpal also mediated an understanding with Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal during the Rajya Sabha elections in June. Sources also credited Shivpal with the return to the party of senior leader Amar Singh.
Last month, Mulayam Singh backed Shivpal and pulled up the state government when he said there were complaints about several ministers being corrupt. Pointing to corruption within the ruling establishment, Shivpal had threatened to resign. Addressing SP workers on August 15, Mulayam said the party would split if Shivpal were to leave.