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Family feud back, sidelined Shivpal looks out

Shivpal Yadav joining hands with the BJP would be an embarrassment for the SP, which had gone out of its way to underline during the polls that all the family feuds had been settled.

Shivpal's meeting with Adityanath has led to the speculation that he might jump ship. (Express file photo by Vishal Srivastav)

With Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia) president Shivpal Yadav meeting BJP senior leadership in Delhi and later Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Wednesday evening, the five-year-long feud between him and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav is back to the fore.

Shivpal’s meeting with Adityanath has led to the speculation that he might jump ship. PSP (L) leaders, who are as in the dark about what the mercurial Shivpal might do, say he also met the central leadership of the BJP when in Delhi recently.

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A senior PSP (L) leader said Shivpal had also called on elder brother and SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav while in the Capital. Once among the contenders for SP reins till Akhilesh was handed the same, Shivpal had a right to feel slighted, the leader argued. “He has been disrespected too many times in the SP.”

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Shivpal joining hands with the BJP would be an embarrassment for the SP, which had gone out of its way to underline during the polls that all the family feuds had been settled. Earlier, just ahead of ticket distribution for the elections, Akhilesh’s sister-in-law Aparna Yadav had left the SP for the BJP.

So far, the BJP is playing it safe, not sharing any photographs of Wednesday’s meeting or talking much about it. On Thursday evening though, Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya, asked about Shivpal, replied tersely: “There is no such vacancy for now.”

Maurya is currently the most prominent OBC leader in BJP ranks. If Shivpal comes to the saffron fold, he will be its biggest Yadav name.

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While Akhilesh and Shivpal had been able to paper over their rift during the polls, the cracks in the relationship had shown. The SP campaign was an almost entirely one-man show led by Akhilesh, with all other senior party leaders, including Shivpal, sidelined.

Shivpal, who contested on the SP symbol, had made only a couple of campaign appearances, one of them with Mulayam. His iteration that he was an SP MLA having won on the party ticket saw no reciprocal acknowledgment, with the SP putting him in the category of allies, on the same pedestal as alliance partners like Om Prakash Rajbhar (SBSP) and Krishna Patel (Apna Dal-Kamerwadi).

Shivpal’s loyalists had seen this as a “snub” to their leader, in line with how Akhilesh had treated him in the past.

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SP leaders argue that while Shivpal saw value in joining hands with Akhilesh before the polls, and stormed to victory from Jaswantnagar in pocketborough Etawah by a huge margin, the lure evaporated just as the prospect of Akhilesh becoming CM did. With Akhilesh taking on the role of Leader of Opposition, Shivpal saw another chance of a prominent post lost, said an SP leader.

A senior SP leader, however, said Shivpal was not inclined to slug it out in the Opposition. “He wants to be on the side of the government, and that has become clear in the past few days. If he had issues, they could have been discussed.”

On March 26, it first became clear that all was not well in the family after Shivpal alleged he was not invited for a meeting of SP MLAs, where Akhilesh was elected as the Leader of the SP Legislative Party. The SP countered that Shivpal would be called to a meeting scheduled on March 28 of the party with MLAs of alliance partners. This time, Shivpal was invited, but his party said the invite came too late and he was in New Delhi and hence could not attend.

Sources said Shivpal was not just looking out for himself but also son. He had reportedly sought a ticket for the latter in the recent polls, but was denied one by Akhilesh, who took all the constituency calls.

First published on: 31-03-2022 at 10:07:35 pm
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