IT WAS supposed to be a show of strength, of unity within the party and among prospective allies. But even as Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his uncle Shivpal Yadav shared the stage at the Samajwadi Party’s silver jubilee celebration in Lucknow on Saturday, the rift was visible — in their words, in the faces on the stage, and those missing as well.
Senior party leaders Azam Khan and Amar Singh skipped the event, even as other party leaders sought to project a united ‘socialist’ front. These included RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda, RLD leader Ajit Singh, JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav and INLD leader Abhay Chautala.
On the other hand, all the three ministers who were sacked along with Shivpal last month — Om Prakash Singh, Narad Rai and Shadab Fatima — were present on the stage.
Addressing the gathering, Shivpal said: “Jo tyag mangoge, kar denge. Khoon mangoge to khoon bhi de denge. Mujhe mukhya mantri kabhi nahin banna hai. Jitna bhi mera apmaan kar lena, jitni baar bhi mujhe barkhast kar dena, magar mein jaanta hun ki maine accha kaam kiya hai (Whatever sacrifice you want from me, I will make. If you want my blood, I will give it. I don’t ever want to become chief minister. You can insult me, dismiss me as many times as you want, but I know that I have done good work).”
Stating that some people were trying to create problems, he emphasised that he would not tolerate any insult to Mulayam. He asked the party workers to end groupism and project a united front.
Addressing Akhilesh, Shivpal said, “Aap bura maan gaye the jab ek baar maine kaha tha ki kuch logon ko virasat me mil jata hai, aur kuch log jeevan bhar kaam karte reh jaate hain, unhe kuch nahin milta… Aur kuch logon ne chaaploosi kar li, wo poora maza le gaye (You felt hurt when I once said that some people inherit, while others get nothing despite working all their lives… And the sycophants are enjoying full benefits),” said Shivpal.
Akhilesh hit back when his turn came. Pointing towards Gayatri Prasad Prajapati, a minister who he had sacked over graft allegations but later reinducted on Mulayam’s insistence, Akhilesh said, “Prajapati has presented me a sword. You give me a sword but don’t want me to use it.”
Recalling that Ram Manohar Lohia once said that people would recall his words after his death, Akhilesh said: “I am quoting his words in a different context… Some people will come to know, after everything in the SP is disturbed.” He said he was ready for any test. “Agar kisi ko pariksha leni hai, to main pariksha dene ko taiyaar hun (If anyone wants to take my test, I am ready for it),” he said.
With party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav choosing to stay silent on the issue, it was left to RJD chief Lalu to play peacemaker. He brought Akhilesh and Shivpal together on the stage, raising their hands that held the swords gifted on the occasion. He asked Akhilesh to seek his uncle’s blessings and respect his elders, and pulled Shivpal’s hand to bless his nephew. “By bringing Shivpal and Akhilesh together before you, I have proved that there is no feud,” said Lalu.
Meanwhile, most of the other party leaders talked about “unity of socialist parties” and asked Mulayam to initiate efforts to “unite secular forces”. Mulayam, however, remained silent on the issue.