Even as Uttar Pradesh's ruling Samajwadi Party tried to put up a united face at its silver jubilee celebrations on Saturday, their truce seemed fragile as state party chief Shivpal Yadav took several potshots at his nephew and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.
The two have been locked in a bitter turf war over the past two months, even coming to blows at a public function. Shivpal, who was sacked as a minister twice in a month by Akhilesh, said he wanted to once again reiterate that he was not after any post or ministry.
"I have said it in the past and am saying it again that becoming Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh was never my ambition, and I reiterate it," Shivpal said as his supporters applauded. He also said his contribution to the party's growth and the state government headed by Akhilesh was no less.
"Have I not worked hard? Have the departments I held did any lesser work? How many times will I be humiliated" he asked Akhilesh.
"If the party so requires, I am ready to even offer them my blood," he said.
Referring to his dismissal from the state cabinet twice, Shivpal said he was neither greedy for any post nor any ministry. "Sack me, humiliate me but my contributions are also part of the UP government's good work."
Making it uncomfortable for those trying to put up a united face, Shivpal also alluded that Akhilesh's claim to power stood because he was Mulayam's son. He said that while some people get power in lineage, there were many who were silent workers.
"Kuch logo ko bhagya se mil jata hai, aur kuch logo ko mehnat se. Kuch logo ko virasat se bhi mil jata hai. Par kuch logo ko zindagi bhar kaam karte karte mar jate hain par unko kuch nahin milta [Some people achieve things because of their luck, others have to work hard for it. Some people can simply inherit success, while some people sacrifice themselves and still don't get anything]."
His apparent hint was at Akhilesh being anointed as the successor of party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Akhilesh's speech in contrast was relatively subdued but had some clear references to his uncle's speech before him.
"I will not reply to certain things. Ram Manohar Lohia ji used to say he would be heard but only after death. I want to say that people will hear but only after everything is damaged," Akhilesh said addressing an event on the occasion. His remarks were being read in the backdrop of Shivpal's comment alluding that Akhilesh simply inherited power without doing anything.
Akhilesh said, "If you want to take my test, I am ready for any thing. Our target is to defeat BJP and BSP in 2017 elections. This UP election will decide future of the country", he said. Addressing his father and party supremo, Mulayam, Akhilesh also said "If you have given me a sword, I will also use it." The cryptic reference was to the sword presented to Akhilesh and other party leaders at the start of the event, which Akhilesh apparently used as a metaphor for his powers as a CM.
However, apart from this, Akhilesh largely kept his speech focused on his government's work and SP's developmental agenda. He also used the stage to lash out at SP's political rival BJP.
Later, when a former minister of state and member of the youth brigade Javed Abdi started speaking on the dais and started eulogising Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, he was pushed away by Shivpal Yadav.
However, according to IANS, before this, Shivpal was called by party supremo and elder brother Mulayam Singh Yadav and asked to tell Abdi to go away.
It is also interesting to note here that Amar Singh, who has been at the eye of the Samajwadi Party storm, kept his distance from the event. Akhilesh had earlier blamed Amar Singh for the problems within the family while Mulayam and Shivpal had sided with the senior leader.
Apart from this, Shivpal had reportedly ensured that expelled Akhilesh supporters were not present at the event, who had earlier been present at Akhilesh Yadav's rath yatra event on Thursday.
This, political observers say, was another indication of the desperate attempts to put up a calm and united face of the party.
Earlier, the two sides showed unusual bonhomie and when RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav tried to ensure a shake hand between Shivpal and Akhilesh, the latter touched the feet of his uncle and former PWD minister.
Lalu Yadav also tried to downplay the rift in the Samajwadi Party, stating that Akhilesh and Shivpal were united. Recounting the past years of Janata Party, he said that even at the time, there was a lot of confusion and ruckus on stage due to enthusiasm but Samajwadis always came together in the end.
Party Supremo Mulayam Singh, however, chose to keep mum on the issue even as Shivpal and Akhilesh exchanged jibes in his presence. He rather chose to speak about the developmental issues and urged the party workers to ensure the well-being of the poor and the marginalised in the state. He praised Akhilesh's government's performance but said that a lot more needs to be done before they can revel in their achievements.
At the event that saw lakhs turn up to witness the old socialist allies come together, Shivpal first welcomed guests like former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, former Janata Dal-United president Sharad Yadav, RLD chief Ajeet Singh amid others.
With inputs from PTI