An open war broke out on Tuesday in Uttar Pradesh's ruling Samajwadi Party with Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav stripping his uncle Shivpal Yadav of key ministerial portfolios, hours after his removal as the party's state unit chief and appointment of the latter in his place.
Sharp differfences in the Yadav family came out in the open as Akhilesh Yadav shunted Chief Secretary Deepak Singhal, considered close to Shivpal, barely two months after his appointment, setting off a chain of developments that saw SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav ousting his son as state party chief and replacing him with Shivpal.
Hours after Mulayam made his bother and senior cabinet minister the UP unit head of the ruling party, in an angry retort, Akhilesh clipped his uncles wings by stripping him of the plum PWD, irrigation and cooopetative portfolios.
"Singhal has been removed and put on wait list. Principal Secretary (Finance) Rahul Bhatnagar has been made new Chief Secretary," an official spokesman said here.
Though no reason was cited, Samajwadi Party insiders said the Chief Minister was not happy with him as he had attended a dinner hosted by SP Rajya Sabha member Amar Singh in Delhi which Akhilesh gave a miss. Mulayam and some other top party leaders were peresent at the dinner.
Differences between Akhilesh and Shivpal have been reported on several occasions, including on the choice of official to be appointed as the states chief secretary after Alok Ranjan's term ended, and stalling of Qaumi Ekta Dal's merger with SP. Shivpal was said to have shepherded the merger of gangster-politician Mukhtar Ansari's QED with the Samajwadi Party.
Singhal was earlier Principal Secretary (Irrigation), a department held by Shivpal.
Hours after Singhal was eased out as the state's top bureaucrat, Mulayam's cousin and SP general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav wrote to Shivpal: "SP President Mulayam Singh Yadav has appointed you as the president of the Uttar Pradesh unit. It is hoped that with your hard work, you will further strengthen the party." A copy of the letter was also marked to Akhilesh Yadav.
Not to take it lying down, the Chief Minister immediately divested his uncle of key departments, keeping with himself the PWD portfolio and giving irrigation to minister Awadhesh Prasad and revenue and cooperatives to Balram Yadav, an official release said late tonight.
Shivpal, who is now left with land development, water resources and social welfare ministries, is likely to resign from the cabinet. Though there was no official word from him, sources in the party said he was "most likely" to tender his resignation on Wednesday.