In dramatic tit-for-tat in Uttar Pradesh's ruling Samajwadi Party on Sunday, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav ousted uncle Shivpal Yadav, a confidant of party chief Mulayama Singh Yadav, and three others from the government and the party brass retaliated by sacking his backer and MP Ram Gopal Yadav from the party for six years.
The dynastic power struggle between the Yadavs—until now a large but united political family—appeared to have reached a dead end at a time when the party faces crucial elections to retain power in politically critical and the country's most populated state.
The decision by the estranged Chief Minister to oust the ministers followed the earlier dismissal of Akhilesh supporters from the party on Saturday by Shivpal Yadav, the new state in charge of the Samajwadi Party and brother of Mulayam Singh.
On Sunday evening, Mulayam Singh—facing the worst crisis of his political career—called an emergency meeting of senior party leaders to douse the fires in the party he founded some 25 years ago. But the meeting appeared to have made no breakthrough in building peace.
Besides Shivpal Yadav, the other ministers thrown out were Narad Rai, Om Prakash and Shadab Fatima. Jaya Prada, an actor-turned-politician close to Rajya Sabha member and another Mulayam confidant Amar Singh, was also expelled from the Uttar Pradesh Film Development Council.
Amar Singh, a businessman-turned-politician, was sacked from the party in 2010 along with Jaya Prada. He returned to the Mulayam fold last year.
Legislators who attended a morning meeting with the Chief Minister said Akhilesh Yadav made it clear that anyone close to Amar Singh cannot find a place in his government.
As the meeting ended, the legislators shouted slogans hailing Akhilesh Yadav and denouncing Amar Singh as a "dalal" (broker).
Hours later, the Samajwadi Party expelled national General Secretary and spokesman Ram Gopal, an unabashed Akhilesh supporter and Mulayam's cousin, for six years from all party posts.
Announcing the decision by Mulayam Singh, Shivpal Yadav said Ram Gopal had connived with "communal forces" to destabilize and weaken the party—which has a brute majority in the 403-member assembly.
"He met a senior BJP leader thrice and is trying to save his son Akshay and daughter-in-law from the CBI," Shivpal Yadav said, linking the two family members with a tainted chief engineer of Noida Authority. Ram Gopal denied the charge and said he continued to stand by Akhilesh Yadav.
Ram Gopal, now in Mumbai, triggered a controversy earlier on Sunday when he wrote a letter to party leaders saying only Akhilesh Yadav can lead the party to victory in the assembly poll.
Akhilesh Yadav, 43, describing himself as the political successor to his father Mulayam Singh, dismissed speculations that he wanted to split the Samajwadi Party which, he said, belonged to "Netaji" - as Mulayam Singh is widely known.
The Chief Minister also said he would attend the party's Silver Jubilee function on November 5.
An insider said all efforts to bring peace in the Samajwadi Party were effectively over now and that the party may he headed for a vertical split between the two generations.
State BJP chief Keshav Prasad Maurya demanded that the Akhilesh Yadav government had lost the majority to rule Uttar Pradesh. He asked the Chief Minister to resign or prove his majority on the floor of the assembly.
The bitter Yadav-versus-Yadav struggle for power has been raging for two months now. In September, Akhilesh Yadav sacked Shivpal Yadav from the government after he allied with gangster-turned politician Mukhtar Ansari.
But the Chief Minister reinstated his uncle after Mulayam Singh intervened and brokered a truce that did not last too long.