The ongoing tug of war within the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) is a huge challenge for party national president Mulayam Singh Yadav who wants both the state government and the party organization to work in tandem to ensure a second consecutive term for his son chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.
To meet this objective, Mulayam wants his younger brother Shivpal Singh Yadav and Akhilesh to function like his ‘two arms’. However, after a series of changes on Tuesday which saw Akhilesh sack the chief secretary, Mulayam Singh replace Akhilesh with Shivpal as UP party chief and Akhilesh strip Shivpal of his key ministerial responsibilities, Mulayam’s task got that much more difficult.
As the incumbent CM, Akhilesh will remain the face of the party for the 2017 Assembly polls. He will also, once again, lead a state wide `Parivartan Vikas Rath Yatra’ very soon. And, if the SP retains power in 2017, Akhilesh will be the chief minister.
“But Mulayam Singh Yadav understands that a strong and loyal organization is the basic need to attain power with an absolute majority. Shivpal has been working in the organisation with Neta Ji (Mulayam) for decades and hence he has a strong following among workers of the Yadav and Muslim communities. Mulayam enjoys a following in both these communities and he needs Shivpal to manage the organisation.
“On the other hand, Akhilesh has following among the youth and he remain busy with government affairs,” said a SP leader, explaining the division of power in the SP’s scheme of things.
The current in-fighting has created confusion among party workers who hope that Mulayam will be able to bring Akhilesh and Shivpal together again, on a single united platform.
When Mulayam replaced Akhilesh with Shivpal as party state president on Tuesday evening, it sent a strong message to Akhilesh who had removed Shivpal’s close confidant IAS officer Deepak Singhal as chief secretary earlier in the day. Later, Akhilesh stripped Shivpal of key portfolios.
Mulayam had appointed Akhilesh state party president a few weeks before the 2012 assembly elections. Now Mulayam has appointed his brother state president with UP elections around the corner. The role of the state president will be important, right from the selection of candidates to planning of the poll campaign. However, it is well known that Mulayam makes the final call in the selection of candidates and the appointment of party office bearers.
“Mulayam wants Akhilesh to focus on the campaign with a clean image and let party affairs to be handled by Shivpal who is more experienced in organisational activities and has a strong lobby of cadre workers and MLAs,” said a SP leader.
In the past, a major section of workers in the ruling party saw Shivpal as the second most important man in the party after Mulayam. Shivpal’s interactions with cadre workers, his frequent tours across the state and his elevation as state in-charge of the party in April this year — a position that places him above then state party president Akhilesh Yadav in the party hierarchy – are arguments used to support this claim.
Shivpal had also played a key role in attempting alliances with other political parties. Shivpal had supported the merger of Quami Ekta Dal (QED) with the SP which was later called off by SP’s national parliamentary board under pressure from Akhilesh. Shivpal had then expressed his dissatisfaction with the party’s decision.
Shivpal had also mediated an understanding with the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) to get RLD MLAs to support SP candidates in the June Rajya Sabha elections.
Sources say that Shivpal played a major role in the return of senior leader Amar Singh to the party. He is also in touch with another senior leader and ex-union minister, Beni Prasad Verma who rejoined the party a few weeks ago. Before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections too, Mulayam had picked Shivpal to manage the party’s affairs.
Highlighting the significance of Shivpal, Mulayam had said last month that the party will split into several factions and many workers will go with Shivpal if he leaves. He had suggested that there was a conspiracy against Shivpal from within the party after Shivpal had alleged corruption within the ruling establishment and had threatened to resign.