Ahead of the Assembly polls, ruling Samajwadi Party today appeared to be headed for a split, with Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his party supremo and father Mulayam Singh engaging in a face-off by sacking each other’s loyalists Shivpal Yadav and Ramgopal Yadav.
On a day of fast-paced developments, Akhilesh first sacked Shivpal, his uncle and party’s state unit chief, along with three other “pro-Amar Singh” ministers from his Cabinet. Mulayam, in a tit-for-tat action, expelled Ramgopal, pro-CM cousin and SP’s national general secretary, from the party for six years.
Mulayam, who remained silent during the day, told reporters in the evening that “Whatever I have to say, I will say tomorrow.” He made the remarks after a meeting with Shivpal, Om Prakash Singh, senior minister and spokeperson Ambika Chaudhary, and MLC Ashu Malik, and some others.
The crisis in the first family of Uttar Pradesh unfolded in the morning when Akhilesh held a meeting of party legislators, a day ahead of a mega meeting of party MPs, MLAs, MLCs and ministers called by Mulayam where some more tough decisions were likely to be taken.
Those who attended the meeting claimed that 183 of 229 SP MLAs attended it and there were demands for cracking the whip against supporters of Amar Singh, whose re-induction in the party two months ago had triggered a fight in the family.
After the meeting, the Chief Minister recommended to Governor Ram Naik that Shivpal, Narad Rai and Om Prakash Singh (all Cabinet ministers) and Sayeda Shadab Fatima (MoS – Independent charge) be sacked from his ministry. This was accepted immediately.
While the meeting was underway, hundreds of Akhilesh’s supporters were raising slogans in his favour outside.
Significantly, before Akhilesh announced the sacking of Shivpal and three other ministers, Ramgopal issued a letter written to party workers, expressing support to the Chief Minister and warning those opposing him.
“Those who oppose Akhilesh won’t be able to show their faces in the legislative assembly. Where Akhilesh is, victory follows,” he said in the letter.
After his sacking, Shivpal met Mulayam at his residence, which is just nearby that of the CM’s bungalow.
Hours later, he announced that the SP chief had expelled Ramgopal from the party for six years.
Shivpal told mediapersons that Ramgopal was colluding with BJP and had thrice met a senior leader of the saffron party to save himself and his son from a CBI probe in the Yadav Singh Noida scam.
He said he was not worried about being dropped from the government and declared that the state Assembly elections would be fought under leadership of Mulayam.
As the confrontation between the Akhilesh camp and the Mulayam camp appeared to be reaching a point of no return, reports were already doing the rounds that the Chief Minister could launch a new party named ‘National Samajwadi Party’ or ‘Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party’ with motorcycle as its symbol.
Interestingly, according to some media reports, Ramgopal had met officials of the Election Commission in New Delhi a few days back, which was seen as an exercise aimed at exploring a new symbol and party name if Akhilesh dumps SP.