Much as Akhilesh Yadav may try, there is no getting away from Shivpal Yadav. In another move that is set to get under his nephew’s skin, the veteran leader on Thursday announced the launch of a Yadukul Punarjagran (or Renaissance) Mission, with the purpose of “reaching out to the Yadav community”.
While the Mission’s patron is Shivpal, it has former Sambhal MP and controversial strongman D P Yadav as president and writer Vishwatma as founder-member.
Like Shivpal, who was the right-hand man of Mulayam Singh Yadav till Akhilesh superseded him, D P Yadav was also close to the Samajwadi Party founder once. He was part of the Mulayam government formed in 1989.
Shivpal has never reconciled to being second fiddle to Akhilesh, and after ineffectual rebellions within, went on to found the Pragatisheel Samajwadi (Lohia) Party.
While he has had limited electoral success on his own, and fought and won the recent Assembly elections on an SP ticket, Shivpal’s nuisance value can’t be ignored by the SP. He has been in touch with older SP leaders unhappy with Akhilesh’s concentration of power with himself, such as Azam Khan, and can expect to take away at least some Yadav votes from the SP.
Asked about whether the SP, and specifically Akhilesh, was in the crosshairs of the Yadukul Punarjagran Mission, Shivpal said Thursday: “We are not forming this outfit to target anyone. Our work will be to get people to join us… The outfit will raise issues like caste census, and also formation of an Ahir (Yadav) regiment (in the Army).”
The national spokesperson of the Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (L), Er Arvind Singh Yadav, said the Mission had been formed to fight for social justice. “The SP has sidelined all its senior leaders and, hence, finds itself isolated. The party will not be in a position to do anything very soon if things continue to be like this.”
A senior SP leader admitted they were watching the latest turn in the Akhilesh-Shivpal tussle with concern. “Everyone knows that Shivpalji has influence among the Yadavs of the state, especially in the Mainpuri-Etawah belt… Even if Shivpalji manages to get 1,500-2,000 votes away from the SP, it will help the BJP.”
The leader also voiced the growing belief within the SP that Shivpal is backed by the BJP. “He is close to the ruling party and that is clear. He is helping them by attempting to reach out to the Yadav community,” the leader said.
Since reluctantly accepting the offer of just one seat in the Assembly elections, Jaswantnagar, from where he won, Shivpal has been almost continuously on the warpath with Akhilesh. Soon after the results were announced, he had made it clear that it was just a matter of time before he left the SP. On the way out, he had blamed the “disrespect” shown towards him by Akhilesh. Later, he met Azam Khan in jail, after the senior leader expressed his disappointment with Akhilesh.
Shivpal had also questioned Akhilesh’s decision to support Yashwant Sinha as the joint Opposition candidate in the presidential poll. He had embarrassed the SP by suggesting that it had not taken up “harassment” of its senior leaders like Azam Khan, Nahid Hasan and Shazil Islam, while doing so in the case of former SP MLA Rameshwar Singh Yadav and his brother Jugendra Singh Yadav.
Asked if Shivpal’s new outfit would affect the SP, party national spokesperson Abdul Hafeez Gandhi said: “Not at all. The Yadavs and all other backward communities have already chosen Akhileshji as their leader.”