Samajwadi Party (SP) supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav on Friday tried to make light of the ongoing battle of supremacy in the party between Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Shivpal Yadav and said that till he was around there was no way the party would get divided.
Addressing workers in Lucknow at the party headquarters after separate meetings with both the warring leaders, Mulayam also said for him the SP was not just a political entity but a family. Pointing out that workers and supporters of the party were worried about the unfolding events within the party, Mulayam said that Akhilesh would go and meet his uncle Shivpal. The Yadav chieftain also ruled out any major differences between Shivpal, Ram Gopal and Akhilesh Yadav.
Meanwhile, Akhilesh laid down new rules for his father and said that he wanted to be reinstated as the state party president and for the upcoming Assembly elections he wanted the responsibility of distributing party tickets. News18 reported that Akhilesh has also told Mulayam that he is ready to give Shivpal's ministries back to him after the assurance from the party supremo that his demands will be met. A meeting between Mulayam-Akhilesh-Shivpal will also be held.
As party workers raised slogans in favour of Shivpal, the SP chief shouted them down and said they should remain quiet as he was speaking. He also dropped a bombshell later when he reversed the decision of his Chief Minister son and announced that former mines minister Gayatri Prajapati will be reinstated in the government. Prajapati was sacked on Monday based on serious charges of patronising illegal mining and minting ill-gotten money.
This move is likely to dent the authority of Akhilesh further. Mulayam's silence on return of Shivpal to the state cabinet is however being interpreted in different ways in political circles.
Sources told IANS that a solution has been thrashed out wherein all portfolios held by Shivpal prior to Tuesday would be given back to him and he will also remain the state party president.
Mulayam rejects Shivpal's resignation
Meanwhile, Mulayam on Friday rejected the resignation of Shivpal as the state party chief. Sources told IANS that in the 15-minute one-on-one meeting at Mulayam Singh's 5, Vikramaditya Marg residence, the SP chief tore up Shivpal's resignation letter. What transpired thereafter is not known and the two are likely to meet once again at the party headquarters, the sources said.
According to the sources, the SP chief, who has so far not been able to broker peace between the warring "chacha-bhatija", has made up his mind "for some tough decisions" which, an aide said "opened all possibilities".
Meanwhile, a large crowd of supporters thronged the residence of Shivpal and demanded that the "mantri ji" be reinstated with full dignity and that Akhilesh apologise to him.
"Shivpal ji has brought up Akhilesh as his son, would pedal for miles to take him to school as Netaji was busy with politics. Is this the way you treat a person like him," asked an angry supporter.
Supporters, wearing t-shirts emblazoned with images of Shivpal, also demanded action against party general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav, who had on Thursday termed Rajya Sabha member Amar Singh as the villain behind all the party's troubles.
Supporters of Shivpal who were shouting anti-Akhilesh slogans and threatened to go on fast and even indulge in self-immolation, said that it was, in fact, Ram Gopal Yadav who was behind the conspiracy to upstage the former minister.
The Samajwadi Party is a typical Hindu family party which won't split so easily, at least not because of these reasons, wherein two warring factions — a new generation trying to usher in new rules and regulations and the other which is the old guard and a tried-and-tested political war horse
Akhilesh's TV interview
Mulayam in his address to the party members on Friday hinted that people from the party, close aides of SP, have been speaking to the media and have said things they should not have. Maybe the SP supremo was hinting at his cousin brother Ramgopal Yadav's interview to ETV, where, the senior SP leader candidly painted Rajya Sabha member Amar Singh as the villain who was trying to manipulate the "innocent netaji" and formenting trouble within the party.
"Netaji comes off as a leader who cannot differentiate between good and bad; someone who keeps flip-flopping on his stand; and as someone who can easily be tricked into doing things in haste by someone he trusts, only to repent later. Netaji is a simple-hearted person in politics, even though he has built his party up from the scratch. Some people (read Amar Singh) have been taking undue advantage and those who kept abusing the party and even Netaji, now get him to do things that they want," Ram Gopal told ETV.
Or maybe, Mulayam was hinting at son Akhilesh's TV interview where the chief minister openly claims that the fight within the party is not because of him but because of the position he holds. "Jhagra meri wajah se nahi hai, meri kursi ki wajah se hai." The problem, many political observers have noted, is the generation gap within the party. While Mulayam wants to teach Akhilesh the valuable lesson that an electoral win will happen only if the party survives, Akhilesh wants to drive the point home that development and honest policing is what the UP government is all about. Like Ambikanand Sahay points out in this article, the generation gap is so wide within the family (and the party) that not only do the key players think differently, they even act separately. “Blood is the only thing that unites them. Nothing else.”
It becomes extremely tough for Akhilesh as well to run a government where his father and uncles hold the power reins in their hands. When Akhilesh assumed the chief minister’s office, the cabinet was staffed with Mulayam’s loyalists.
"The principal secretary to chief minister, Rakesh Garg, and secretary to the chief minister, Anita Singh, had both served in Mulayam's Pancham Tal as well. Mulayam even deputed his long-time personal security officer Shiv Kumar with Akhilesh. However, in the past two years, Akhilesh has brought in many officers of his choice to Pancham Tal," a report in The Economic Times said.
But with Shivpal being stripped off crucial cabinet portfolios, Akhilesh is sending a message to all his detractors and his family that he, as the chief minister, does not live in anyone’s shadow and will not compromise on crucial issues like law and order and corruption.
The ongoing tussle may benefit rivals BSP and BJP massively as the election is emerging as a tight three-cornered contest
No word on Shivpal
Mulayam's address to his party member on Friday came as no respite for brother Shivpal, who represents the older guard of the party and a tried-and-tested war horse. Mulayam in his speech spoke of party and family unity and how his son Akhilesh will never defy his father's orders. However, Mulayam did not mention the party's verdict on Shivpal's future in the party.
Considering that Akhilesh has already laid down his demands in front of Mulayam, it only remains to be seen what solution does Mulayam bring to the table. Shivpal in the past has maintained that he will abide by whatever Mulayam orders him to do.
The Samajwadi Party is a typical Hindu family party which won't split so easily, at least not because of these reasons, wherein two warring factions — a new generation trying to usher in new rules and regulations and the other which is the old guard and a tried-and-tested political war horse. Mulayam has to bridge this gap and most of the party members have blind faith that he will. Political observers say the reconciliation will eventually happen. But at what cost? This family drama has served a massive blow to the ruling party, and especially couple of months before they are going to fight the biggest election of 2017.
Tussle will deal a sever blow to SP in elections
The SP supremo said it was election time and all should come together to work unitedly. "There is no fight among Ramgopal, Akhilesh and Shivpal," he told reporters as slogans in favour of Shivpal drowned his remarks. As the crisis threatened to cast a shadow over the SP's prospects in the upcoming Assembly elections, Mulayam sought to downplay the developments saying, "Every father and son faces issues... There is no rift."
The ongoing tussle may benefit rivals BSP and BJP massively as the election is emerging as a tight three-cornered contest. Opinion polls have forecast a hung Assembly and if the tussle within team SP is not resolved, it could give its rivals the decisive advantage. Analysts have observed that if SP wants to stand out in the upcoming elections they will have to stand out amid the negative publicity and have each other's back.
Since Akhilesh’s accession to the chief minister's post in 2012, one of his biggest problems has been managing his father and Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam. Akhilesh and Mulayam’s politics are very different. Mulayam, being a political veteran, tries to tell his son that elections are won by people and not officers while Akhilesh seems to be trying really hard to shut his detractors up by trying to fix the law and order situation in the state.
And at a time when the state Assembly elections, which is being touted as the biggest political event of 2017, is already approaching fast, the party needs to maintain the semblance of holding things together.
With inputs from agencies