The announcement of nine new candidates and the replacement of 17 previously named candidates by the Samajwadi Party’s Uttar Pradesh president Shivpal Yadav on Monday is the beginning of the senior leader putting his stamp of authority on the party’s strategy for the coming assembly elections.
It also starts a new phase of differences, however muted right now, between the old guard led by Shivpal and the younger generation led by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav who on Monday said he was not aware of the changes made in the list of candidates by his uncle.
To a question on his role in ticket distribution, Akhilesh said he has “given up all the rights” and “left it to the people”. The responses that he gave in order to avoid a direct answer and his constant reference to “power of the people” could well be perceived as his unhappiness with the party’s functioning.
The announcement of the name of accused Amanmani Tripathi, son of former minister Amarmani Tripathi who is serving a life-term for murdering poet Madhumita Shukla, from Nautanwa seat of Maharajganj district and the replacement of Atul Pradhan, a youth leader considered close to Akhilesh, from Sardhana seat of Meerut can be seen as snubs to the chief minister.
It was the Akhilesh Yadav-led Home Department of the state government which had recommended a CBI inquiry against Amanmani who faces charges of murdering his wife Sara in July last year. Sara’s mother Seema Singh who accused Amanmani of killing Sara and portraying her death as an accident in a car crash, had petitioned Akhilesh for the CBI inquiry into her daughter’s death. Akhilesh went ahead in recommending the CBI inquiry even though Amanmani remained in the party.
Shivpal is known to be on good terms with Amarmani, the former state minister who was one of a group of MLAs to have defected from the BSP to the SP to help Mulayam Singh Yadav form the government in 2003. He has remained with the party ever since. The SP has defended the decision to field Amanmani, saying he was candidate in 2012 too. However, then he was not facing the criminal charges he faces now, including murder and kidnapping.
Amanmani had lost Nautanwa in 2012 to Congress’s Kaushal Kishore Singh, his father’s political rival for over two decades. With his parents lodged in jail, Amanmani has been unable to wield the influence his father once did. In 2014, SP chose Kaushal Kishore’s brother Akhilesh Singh as the party’s candidate from the Maharajganj seat. Akhilesh Singh lost but his family was close to the SP leadership and it was widely expected that Kaushal Kishore would become the party nominee from the same seat. That would have meant political oblivion for the Tripathis. Shivpal’s appointment as state president seems to have erased any chance of that.
In west UP, Shivpal replaced Pradhan, a loyalist of the CM with another candidate. This comes days after he sacked several Akhilesh loyalists on the charge of “shouting slogans against Mulayam Singh Yadav” at a time when the rift between Shivpal and Akhilesh was out in the open. The expelled leaders have denied the charge.
Shivpal has been sending out adequate signals that he would run the party in his own way, heading into crucial assembly elections. He announced the name of Rani Pakshalika Singh, wife of MLA from Bah Raja Mahendra Aridaman Singh who was dropped from the cabinet by Akhilesh after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. She has been given the ticket from Agra’s Khairagarh seat which she had lost in 2012. While a few changes were expected given the candidates being perceived as weak, a few others are clearly seen as either close to Shivpal or those whose abilities he trusts.
With Shivpal asserting himself in the party and Akhilesh losing his grip, the selection of candidates for 229 seats which the SP currently holds is likely to become another tricky situation for the party in the coming days when it will be expected to put up a united campaign.