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Ramgopal vs Shivpal: Old but not out in the long-running Yadav family saga

On Tuesday, as Ramgopal met Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, drawing much attention, the sharpest attack on him was not from his party SP but Shivpal.

Shivpal Yadav (Left) with Ramgopal Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav. (File photo: Twitter/@proframgopalya1)

They may both be out of favour in the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party, but that clearly hasn’t brought cousins Shivpal Yadav and Ramgopal Yadav together.

On Tuesday, as Ramgopal met Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, drawing much attention, the sharpest attack on him was not from his party SP but Shivpal. The Pragatisheel Samajwadi party (PSP) leader, elected as an MLA on SP ticket, questioned Ramgopal’s meeting with the CM, ostensibly to seek help for the family of a former MLA and his younger brother who are related to Ramgopal and are facing police action.

Associated with the SP since the party was formed by Mulayam Singh Yadav, Shivpal and Ramgopal have had strained relations for some time now. Mulayam had worked out an arrangement to keep the peace between the two, as part of which brother Shivpal, a son-of-the-soil politician like him, was his trusted man in Uttar Pradesh, looking after the party’s organisational affairs in the state. The more sophisticated Ramgopal, Mulayam’s cousin, was the SP face in Delhi and at national forums.

This balance shifted when the rise of Mulayam’s son Akhilesh created friction in the party, including between the father and son, around 2016 – during the time Akhilesh was CM. Ramgopal sided with Akhilesh, becoming the first senior SP leader to come out in support of him when Mulayam removed him as UP party chief and replaced him with Shivpal in September 2016.

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Over the next few months, there were expulsions and counter-expulsions from both sides, with the family tussle for power played out in the open.

Ramgopal endorsed Akhilesh’s charge that “outsiders” were interfering in party affairs, and said Mulayam was being “misled”.

Akhilesh responded to Shivpal’s appointment as state unit chief by divesting him of key ministerial portfolios. In turn, Shivpal expelled MLC Arvind Pratap Yadav, Ramgopal’s nephew, from the party on charges of indiscipline.

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A few weeks more, and Akhilesh sacked uncle Shivpal and three of his close ministers from the Cabinet. After that, Mulayam expelled Ramgopal from the party for six years. Shivpal held a press conference accusing Ramgopal of trying to divide the party “at the instance of the BJP”, and this time said it was Akhilesh who was “misled” as he was not seeing that “conspiracy”.

In November 2016, Mulayam reinstated Ramgopal in the party, but a month later, on December 30, expelled him again for six years, along with Akhilesh, for “gross indiscipline”. The provocation was the release of a list of 235 candidates for the 2017 Assembly polls by Akhilesh, many of whom did not figure in the list issued by Mulayam a day earlier.

Within a day though, the expulsion of both Akhilesh and Ramgopal was revoked by Shivpal.

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A day more, come January 1, 2017, Ramgopal called a special convention of the SP in Lucknow and announced Akhilesh as the new national president of the party. Along with this, he passed a resolution stating that Shivpal be removed as UP chief.

In the continuing drama, there was another twist hours later, when Mulayam called an emergency meeting of the party’s central parliamentary board, attended only by Mulayam and Shivpal, where it was decided that the special convention called by Ramgopal was unconstitutional.

After that, matters more or less settled down, with Akhilesh retaining the leadership of the party, Ramgopal elevated as principal general secretary, and Shivpal exiting to form the PSP.

While Ramgopal is still considered close to Akhilesh and, hence, the second-most powerful person in the SP organisation, his role is marginal. Ramgopal was absent from the picture during the recent Assembly elections that Akhilesh ran as virtually a one-man show.

But if Ramgopal still remains technically in Akhilesh’s corner, Shivpal has been trying to find a way back without success – particularly since Mulayam’s virtual retirement from politics. In the 2022 Assembly elections, while Shivpal had an alliance with the SP, he was given only one seat, Jaswant Nagar. Shivpal stood from there, under the SP symbol, and won. Soon after, Shivpal was kept out of a legislative party meeting called by Akhilesh.

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Recently, Shivpal questioned Akhilesh’s decision to support Yashwant Sinha, the joint Opposition candidate, in the presidential poll. The SP then said that he was free to go where he got more respect.

Those close to Shivpal say he believes Ramgopal is the cause of all his problems, having poisoned Akhilesh’s ears against him. And, hence, that there will be no burying of the hatchet any time soon.

First published on: 03-08-2022 at 07:56:57 pm
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