The truce between Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav and his uncle Shivpal Yadav broke Wednesday with Shivpal announcing the formation of a Samajwadi Secular Morcha, to rally those feeling neglected in the party. This fresh ferment within SP comes even as its proposed alliance with BSP hopes to put up a challenge to the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections in April-May 2019.
“They (those disgruntled within SP) will get work in the Samajwadi Secular Morcha. We will expand the morcha by approaching and uniting different smaller parties and those from other communities and castes being ignored by the party. They will go up to the booth level in districts, strengthen the organization, and start working for the Lok Sabha elections,” said Shivpal, who is the younger brother of party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav. Announcing this in Lucknow, he said, the morcha will remain within the party umbrella.
When he was questioned about his plan to set up such a morcha last year, Shivpal said he waited because he was keen the entire Samajwadi Party stayed intact. “Aur jab nahi poocha ja raha hai, nahi bulaya ja raha hai, nahi kaam diya ja raha hai, toh maine ek samajwadi secular morcha banaya hai (when I am not being contacted, not being invited and no work is assigned, then I formed a SSP),” he said. Shivpal’s remarks come close on the heels of SP patriarch and his elder brother Mulayam Singh Yadav publicly lamenting that no one honoured him in the party now being led by within Akhilesh Yadav.
Shivpal had on Tuesday met Uttar Pradesh cabinet minister Om Prakash Rajbhar, who is the president of Suheldeo Bharatiya Samaj Party, an ally of the BJP in the state. Sources in the party said former SP leader and Rajya Sabha member Amar Singh has once again gained proximity with Mulayam Singh Yadav and Shivpal. Amar Singh, they said, was also making conciliatory moves towards the BJP.
In a press conference in Lucknow on Tuesday, Amar Singh had said he had arranged for a meeting between Shivpal and some senior leaders of the BJP but it never took place as the latter did not turn up.
Four months ago, Shivpal had met SP general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav in Delhi where it was agreed that the two factions (led by Akhilesh and Shivpal) would bury their differences and re-unite ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections. It was expected Shivpal would be given a senior position in the party organization. “It has been four months, and Shivpal is not even in the party national executive committee headed by his nephew Akhilesh,” an SP leader close to Shivpal pointed out.
Shivpal’s relations with his cousin, Ram Gopal, and nephew, Akhilesh, soured in September 2016 in the run up to 2017 Assembly elections when Mulayam replaced his son with him as the state party chief. However, Akhilesh stuck to his guns and released his list of candidates for Uttar Pradesh, overruling Mulayam and Shivpal in December 2016. In retaliation, Mulayam expelled Akhilesh and Ram Gopal from the party over alleged “gross indiscipline”. During the tussle, Akhilesh, who was then UP chief minister, divested Shivpal of key cabinet portfolios.
Akhilesh had effected a virtual coup of sorts and replaced his father as the party chief and sacked Shivpal from the party. The Mulayam-Shivpal and Akhilesh-Ram Gopal camps fought a bitter battle in the Election Commission claiming the mantle for the original SP just ahead of the last date for filing nominations for 2017 Assembly elections. The Commission eventually ruled in favour of Akhilesh Yadav camp.
Both sides, however, appeared mending ways after party’s humiliating defeat at the hands of BJP in UP assembly elections in 2017. After SP’s debacle in the Assembly polls, Shivpal kept away from party activities, but had wished Akhilesh well in advance even as he skipped the party’s national convention in Agra before the party president election in October last year. Though he had threatened to float a secular front with Mulayam, he appeared to have dropped the idea when he called on Ram Gopal Yadav early this year.
In fact, he signalled to have accepted the leadership of Akhilesh when he attended a dinner hosted Akhilesh ahead of Rajya Sabha elections in March this year. With the feud within the party appeared to be settling, Akhilesh took the initiative to mobilise opinion within the party for a political realignment with the BSP to take on the BJP in 2019 Lok sabha elections. His initative yielded dividend when the BJP was defeated in the bypolls in Phulpur, Gorakhpur and Kairana Lok Sabha seats in the state.