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Samajwadi Party turmoil: Swords back in scabbards, but for how long?

While the curtains may have officially come down on the "chacha-bhatija" slugfest in the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh, the battle for supremacy between Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his uncle and state unit chief Shivpal Singh Yadav continues backstage.

By: | New Delhi | Published: September 20, 2016 3:26 PM
While Akhilesh Yadav returned Shivpal Yadav's portfolios, under pressure from his father, he refused to give him back PWD, which was the "most plum" portfolio the latter held among those he was divested of. (PTI) While Akhilesh Yadav returned Shivpal Yadav’s portfolios, under pressure from his father, he refused to give him back PWD, which was the “most plum” portfolio the latter held among those he was divested of. (PTI)

While the curtains may have officially come down on the “chacha-bhatija” slugfest in the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh, the battle for supremacy between Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his uncle and state unit chief Shivpal Singh Yadav continues backstage.

After a hectic few days, as SP chief Mulayam Singh seemingly restored the power equilibrium within the party and flew off to Delhi, everyone in the state, including journalists, thought of catching up on some sleep over a quiet weekend. This was, however, not to be — the two sides were soon on another rampage, trying to outsmart each other.

While Akhilesh Yadav returned Shivpal Yadav’s portfolios, under pressure from his father, he refused to give him back PWD, which was the “most plum” portfolio the latter held among those he was divested of.

Uncle Shivpal Yadav, now calling the shots in the organisation, struck back by booting out two senior youth wing leaders the same day. Of these, one was MLC Arvind Singh Yadav, the nephew of his cousin Ram Gopal Yadav, who openly sided with Akhilesh Yadav during the power struggle.

Not stopping at this, Shivpal also sacked seven senior youth wing leaders known to be close to the Chief Minister. These included Sunil Yadav ‘Sajan’, Anand Bhadauria and Sanjay Lathar. As the word of action spread, more than 250 leaders and office bearers of the frontal youth organisations also put in their papers, with some even writing their resignations in blood.

Shivpal Yadav has since replaced Rajendra Chowdhary, the SP spokesman for more than four decades, and dropped Rural Development Minister Arvind Singh Gope as general secretary and replaced him with Tourism Minister Om Prakash Singh. The Chief Minister has asked them to refrain from reacting and instead focus on the forthcoming assembly elections.

Sources in both camps point out that the “bitterness still persists pretty strongly”. And the rift on many points is already evident with both Akhilesh Yadav and Shivpal Yadav taking pot shots at each other. At a media event late last week, the latter said that “people get arrogant once they are on the Chief Minister’s chair” and advised Akhilesh Yadav to be careful of the people around him and, in fact, take some tips from his uncle.

“The Chief Minister lacks experience and is often misguided by people around him, it is also said that people sitting on Chief Minister’s chair are victims of ‘vaham’,” the powerful SP leader said.

At the same event earlier, Akhilesh Yadav said he was ready to return the portfolios he stripped his uncle of to keep his “father happy”. He also added that he was very hurt when he was replaced by Shivpal Yadav as the state unit president.

Shivpal Yadav has retorted by saying that in 2011, when the nephew replaced him as the state president, he did not harbour any resentment. “It’s the way politics happens,” he mused.

And despite both Akhilesh Yadav and party general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav openly picking on Rajya Sabha member Amar Singh as the villain of the piece, Shivpal Yadav has said that there was no way that Amar Singh would work against the Yadav family. “I don’t believe this outsider theory, everyone in the party is a family,” he said.

With Shivpal Yadav getting back all his previous and powerful ministries — barring PWD — and also retaining the post of the state unit chief, sources say, the impression is that he is more powerful than his Chief Minister nephew — and this will only create problems in the future.

A close aide of the Chief Minister told IANS that “all that ‘bhaiyya-ji’ wants is respect for the post he is holding and a clean image for the party and its candidates as they go into the elections early next year”. He also said that most people in the party were not opposed to this.

Mulayam Singh Yadav’s order of reinstating tainted minister Gayatri Prajapati also upset the applecart of the development-oriented Chief Minister, political observers here feel. And, to balance the slight that has been forced upon Akhilesh Yadav, his father is likely to allow him a major say in selection of party candidates for the 2017 assembly polls, a senior leader said.

“After all, it is my image with which I am going to the people seeking re-election,” Akhilesh Yadav said on a TV show. Sources say that the truce for now has been called largely because of the impending assembly polls and that, with time, things are going to get worse, especially in a scenario when “netaji” will not be around to broker peace.

An interesting aspect of the whole “pari-war” was that, for the first time, Shivpal Yadav’s son Aditya and wife Sarla joined in the hostilities and quit the posts they were holding under the SP government.

“It amply shows that other than the talk of an outsider instigating some of the top shots, its a deep divide in the family,” a senior minister said, suggesting that the simmering discontent might once again come to the fore in the near future.

And so, even as the swords are back in the scabbards for now, the bureaucracy waits with baited breath for what will happen next and the people at large are sceptical about having seen the last battle in this family war.

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