After a brief lull, the turf war in the ruling Samajwadi Party resurfaced on Friday in the open as reports trickled out that the Quami Ekta Dal (QED) of mafia don-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari has already merged with the Samajwadi Party — a move Akhilesh was against and had tried and prevented in the past.
"The QED has already been merged with the SP. Netaji (SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav) has made a statement in this regard in the media. His decision is final," Yadav told reporters while announcing the party's new 80-member state executive committee.
Three months ago the merger was called off after a huge internal turmoil in the party.
The controversial mafia turned politician, who is currently lodged in Lucknow jail, is facing several criminal cases.
The inclusion of Mukhtar Ansari in the Samajwadi party is likely to dent the image of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav who has been primarily seen as the face of a relatively corruption free and pro-development government.
This was one of the probable reasons for which Akhilesh vehemently opposed his entry into the party. However, the old guards from the party believe that the merger would bring in additional Muslim votes to the party's kitty, particularly from the eastern districts of the state in the 2017 Assembly election.
Earlier, the SP-QED merger was announced in June in the presence of Shivpal but as Akhilesh, who was the party's state president then, was reportedly against the move it was called off by the party's state parliamentary board later.
However, despite all the visible differences, Akhilesh's uncle Shivpal Yadav played down reports of "differences" within the party, saying, "Everything is all right. All the decisions have been taken by taking netaji (Mulayam Singh Yadav) and Akhilesh into confidence."
However, the ongoing tug-of-war is no longer being seen as a tiff between uncle and nephew in the Yadav clan but as a direct face-off between father and son. While Mulayam the organisational head of the party is resisting an increasingly assertive Akhilesh, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, on the other hand, is also trying to flex his muscles and prove he is no longer a puppet figure operating out of his father's shadows.
This was evident from the recent spat within the family when Akhilesh stripped uncle Shivpal of key ministerial portfolios asserting his rights as the Chief Minister. Mulayam was quick to sack his own son from the post of Uttar Pradesh state unit chief and fortifying brother Shivpal's position in the party by giving him the post.
The very public rebuff of Akhilesh not only brought out in the open the inner strife within the family but belittled the Chief Minister in the public eye. Akhilesh, who was increasingly trying to project himself as a strong leader came out with a bruised ego. The opposition too was quick to grab the opportunity and play it up to its advantage.
BJP spokesperson Siddharth Nath Singh said, "If Akhilesh is a helpless person then we don't need such a chief minister." BSP supremo and old adversary of SP, Mayawati too mocked Akhilesh terming him "a weak chief minister" who is prone to taking U-turns, according to The Indian Express.
Though the Yadav family has been claiming there were no differences within the party, their actions have clearly displayed the faultlines in the state's ruling party.
On 20 September, Shivpal sacked seven youth leaders perceived as Akhilesh's loyalists for "indiscipline" for allegedly making “derogatory remarks” against Mulayam. Shivpal also sacked an MLC, a nephew of his brother Ramgopal Yadav who had stood by Akhilesh in the face of the feud. This recent purge carried out by Shivpal indicates that the turf war to wield control within the party is far from over.
Speaking on the matter Shivpal had said, "I have expelled them. Now, they can approach someone who has the right (to reinduct them)."
Earlier Akhilesh was made to take a U-turn and reinstate sacked ministers and Shivpal's loyalists including the ministers charged with corruption Gayatri Prasad Prajapati, Manoj Pandey and Shivakant Ojha. Akhilesh Yadav, who won public accolade for sacking the ministers, has been embarrassed by swearing-in of Gayatri Prajapati, whose re-induction in the state cabinet was announced by his father and Samajwadi Party chairman.
Another act of Shivpal betrayed the fact that indeed all is not well within the family when he released the list of nine candidates for the upcoming elections which included the name of Madhumita murder case accused Amanmani Tripathi, son of Amarmani Tripathi. Amanmani is also under the CBI scanner for allegedly killing his wife Sara. Akhilesh, when asked about the party's choice of candidate, first feigned ignorance but later gave a cryptic response stating he has given up his say in the ticket distribution process. "In politics, no one knows what will happen the next day," the Chief Minister added reflectively.
Shivpal, however, defended his decision and said, "The probe is on. The chargesheet will be filed in court. We should wait for that."
When he was reminded that Sara's mother Seema Singh had on Wednesday met Mulayam to request him not to allot a poll ticket to Amanmani, Shivpal said that, "Her (Sara's) mother has not met me. When she does, I will look into it."