The reason for the ongoing feud in the ruling family in Uttar Pradesh could, after all, be the authority to select party candidates for the 2017 Assembly election. This seemingly innocuous power is actually so strong that Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav is prepared to reinstate the two ministers dismissed a few days ago, restore departments to uncle and senior minister Shivpal Yadav and, if it comes to the crunch, even quit from the chief ministerial post.
Akhilesh Yadav admitted all this rather candidly while participating in a television programme in Lucknow on Friday – the fifth day of the stand-off between him and his uncle Shivpal Yadav. In response to a question whether Shivpal could be given back the departments taken away from him, Akhilesh replied that in this case he, too, would like to get back what he had lost. And he went on to add that he would like to retain the authority to give party tickets for the forthcoming election and was even ready to lay down his office to get this authority.
This explains to a large extent the circumstances that have emerged in the aftermath of the dismissal of two ministers Gayatri Prajapati and Raj Kishore Singh, transfer of former Chief Secretary Deepak Singhal and curtailing of Shivpal’s portfolios. Until Thursday (15 September) night, the events made sense as an elaborate script crafted to establish Akhilesh as a strong, no-nonsense chief minister. But instead of a happy ending where Akhilesh handled his responsibility as chief minister while keeping Shivpal out of his hair, the events have laid bare the façade that has been created in the name of development activities by the Samajwadi Party.
Rather than making development activities as the focus of his actions, Akhilesh has revealed that what matters more to him is the state party president’s post that comes with the authority to decide party candidates and strengthening his hold over the Samajwadi Party – unlike functioning as an undisturbed chief minister with a clear agenda for development.
The fact that Akhilesh agreed to reinstate Gayatri Prajapati, the former Mining Minister, also put paid to his claims as being a leader with zero-tolerance for corruption. It is now almost certain that Prajapati will be re-inducted into the Akhilesh Cabinet very soon.
Prajapati was spotted standing next to Shivpal when the latter came out of his official residence in Lucknow on Friday morning to address the slogan-shouting supporters. Prajapati is under a cloud facing serious charges of irregularities in mining across the state and an inquiry is also under way against him by the Lok Ayukta. The Allahabad High Court has already ordered a CBI inquiry into the whole gamut of mining in Uttar Pradesh. It is also likely that Shivpal might get back his departments like irrigation, PWD and cooperatives.
All warring members of the family have repeatedly said that any solution suggested by Mulayam Singh Yadav will be acceptable to them. A solution making the rounds suggests that Shivpal will continue being the state president while a new position of the executive president might be created for Akhilesh. This effectively rules out replacing Akhilesh as the Chief Minister, but the aura that had so carefully been created around him for being courageous, upright and visionary appears to be fast losing its sheen. Mulayam has also stated categorically that there would be no split in the Samajwadi Party as long as he is alive. This may hold the party – and Akhilesh and Shivpal – together, but the seeds of discontent have grown deeper.
Now, with the disclosure of the real reason for Akhilesh’s displeasure with Shivpal – control of the party rather than a principled stand on corruption or irregularities – the Yadav family dispute has started appearing as much ado about nothing. Does Akhilesh want to retain control over ticket distribution to ensure that in the case of majority for his party in 2017, his loyalists ensure his Chief Ministership? Does his insecurity emanate from a statement given by Shivpal that the new chief minister – in case of a majority – will be decided by the party legislators at that time?
If the answer is yes, then it falls in place why control over the party has been made out to be more consequential than running an efficient government.