Akhilesh Yadav was today unanimously re-elected as the Samajwadi Party’s national president for a five-year term, further consolidating his grip over the party after sidelining his father Mulayam Singh Yadav and uncle Shivpal Yadav. His re-election was announced by senior SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav at the SP national convention here. The party’s constitution was amended to extend the tenure of the party chief to five years from the existing three years.
Now that 44-year-old Akhilesh will remain at the helm for five years, the 2019 Lok Sabha and state Assembly elections in 2022 will be held under his presidentship. The state president’s tenure has already been extended by a similar period by the state executive and Naresh Uttam was unanimously re-elected to the post for five years. Both Mulayam and Shivpal gave a miss to the SP event just as they had stayed away from the state executive meeting of the party in Lucknow on September 23.
Akhilesh had personally invited his father for the national convention. Apparently to send a message of all-is-well in the Yadav clan, Akhilesh had yesterday said that his estranged uncle Shivpal blessed and congratulated him over telephone. As he was addressing a press conference a day ahead of his party’s national convention here, the former UP chief minister was asked about reports that his uncle had called him up. “I got the benefit of my age and our relation. He (Shivpal) gave me blessings and congratulated me also,” Akhilesh said.
The SP had witnessed a bitter feud between Akhilesh and Shivpal and this infighting adversely affected the party during the UP Assembly polls earlier this year. Akhilesh, who is involved in a bitter feud with Shivpal, had recently dropped enough hints that there was no likelihood of any reconciliation with his warring uncle when he cautioned partymen to beware of “fake samajwadis”. “But it has opened the eyes of samajwadis. Now they will not succeed,” he had recently said in Lucknow in an apparent attack on Shivpal, though he did not take his name.
Akhilesh has maintained that he enjoyed the blessings of his 77-year-old father, and Mulayam on his part corroborated it days later saying, “My blessings are with him (Akhilesh Yadav) as he is my son, though I don’t agree with his decisions.” “Baap bete me kab tak matbhed rah sakta hai, koi nahi keh sakta” (No one can say for sure how long differences will remain between father and son),” he had said. Mulayam had ruled out forming any new party “as of now”, putting a lid on speculation that he could part ways with the party he had formed 25 years ago amid the continuing battle for supremacy in the party.
Both Mulayam and Shivpal have been sidelined by Akhilesh ever since he snatched the crown of SP chief from his father at the party’s national convention here on January 1. Shivpal had announced in June that he would float the Samajwadi Secular Front “to fight communal forces”. In a series of tit-for-tat actions, Mulayam had last month replaced Akhilesh-loyalist Ram Gopal with Shivpal Yadav as the secretary of the Lohia Trust.
Taking full control of the party after being crowned as its head and alloted the ‘bicycle’ symbol by the EC on January 16, Akhilesh has been going full throttle. The key Lok Sabha by-elections to be held in Gorakhpur and Phulpur (the seats vacated by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya) will give the SP a chance to gauge which way the wind is blowing months after it faced a rout in the Assembly polls.
Akhilesh has already said if results of the elections were in “our favour, it will give a message not only for the 2019 (Lok Sabha polls), but also for the 2022 (assembly polls).