The feud within the party also reflects in the newly announced 81-member state executive committee of the SP. The committee, announced by Shivpal on October 6, comprises leaders loyal to himself and Mulayam.
It was an important meeting. The venue was the Samajwadi Party’s headquarters in Lucknow, and those present included Mulayam Singh Yadav, the party’s national president, and members of the parliamentary board, the party’s apex decision-making body. Mulayam was on his feet, addressing the gathering. The chair meant for him was at the centre of the dais.
In came party leader Amar Singh. He glanced around and went straight to the vacant chair on the dais. As he sat down, other leaders pointed out that the chair was Mulayam’s. Singh waved them aside. “No one else would have dared to do so,” a senior member of the parliamentary board told THE WEEK. “This shows how much influence Amar Singh had over Netaji [Mulayam].”
This incident happened before Singh fell out with Mulayam and was expelled in 2010. He subsequently floated his own party, contested elections and lost. In May this year, he returned to the SP and was appointed national general secretary. Mulayam also inducted Singh into the parliamentary board, overruling objections from senior party leaders, including his son, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, and cousin Ram Gopal Yadav, MP. Singh’s influence over Mulayam is among the slew of issues that has caused fissures in the SP.
Singh, whom many SP leaders describe as an “outsider”, also has Shivpal Singh Yadav, Mulayam’s youngest brother and state party president, on his side. His return apparently aggravated the ongoing feud in the extended Yadav family. While it has been claimed that Mulayam’s intervention has bridged the fissures in the family, the reality is altogether different. The tug-of-war over control of the party is now between Akhilesh and Shivpal, and their camps are slinging mud at each other.
With assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh only months away, the question is whether Mulayam can put an end to the infighting. He knows that the SP needs both Akhilesh and Shivpal to do well in the polls. As the youth icon and face of the party in the state, Akhilesh trumps Shivpal in terms of popularity. He played a crucial role in the SP’s victory in the 2012 assembly elections. Shivpal, on the other hand, is a veteran leader who wields considerable influence over a section of the party cadre.
“If the party has to consolidate itself at the national level, Mulayam has to make a clear choice between Akhilesh and Shivpal,” said a senior party leader. “Akhilesh has the potential to steer the party nationally. Mulayam needs to deliver the message that the party will play only under one captain.”
Mulayam, however, is yet to deliver any message of that kind, and it has affected the SP’s poll preparations. On October 6, he postponed a rally in Azamgarh which was meant to kickstart the party’s election campaign. The reason: the young cadres there were belligerent, and many of them had burnt Amar Singh in effigy. The party headquarters in Lucknow was advised to postpone the rally in view of the situation.
Akhilesh, too, is in a fit of the sulks. He has put off his cycle yatras, which had played a vital role in the SP winning a huge mandate in 2012. (Cycle is the party’s election symbol.) A special ‘vikas rath’ (chariot of development) has already been designed and is waiting to be rolled out. The talk, however, is that the chief minister is set to take a break from his election schedule.
Akhilesh has made it clear that he is finding it difficult to deal with the relatives opposing him. “A recent poll survey said the SP was number one,” he said. “But I don’t know what the situation is now. The only thing I know is that the public likes our development works, and that we are in a fight with some invisible forces. It is easy to fight visible forces rather than invisible ones.”
There is also a rift between Shivpal and Ram Gopal, who has backed Akhilesh to the hilt. Shivpal’s picture was conspicuously absent in some posters that recently appeared in Firozabad, the constituency of Ram Gopal’s son and MP Akshay Yadav. Shivpal hit back by expelling Arvind Yadav, legislator and close relative of Ram Gopal.
Shivpal has been flexing his political muscles ever since he replaced Akhilesh as state party president in September. Soon after taking charge, he provoked his nephew by announcing that the Quami Ekta Dal (QED) had merged in the SP. He said the merger decision had been approved by Mulayam. “The national president has ratified it,” said Shivpal. “There should not be any doubt that the majority of decisions regarding the party are taken with the consent of Mulayam Singh and Akhilesh Yadav.”
The merger has brought tainted politician Mukhtar Ansari into the SP fold. “Since the merger is now final, Mukhtar has automatically become part of the SP,” said Mukhtar’s brother and QED leader Afzal Ansari. “He will contest the polls on SP ticket if the party fields him.”
For Akhilesh, it is a big setback, as he had been trying to stall the merger to prevent Mukhtar from joining the SP. In fact, the merger had been a major bone of contention between Shivpal and Akhilesh, who has been trying to portray the SP as being “cleaner” than its political rivals. To add insult to injury, Shivpal gave party ticket to Amanmani Tripathi, son of former minister Amarmani Tripathi, who was convicted for the murder of poet Madhumita Shukla in 2003. Amanmani, too, has been charged with kidnapping, extortion and murder of his wife.
Shivpal has also given ticket to Mukesh Srivastava, an accused in the 05,000-crore National Rural Health Mission scam. He has publicly defended both the candidates. “Amanmani has not been convicted,” he said. “The CBI report against him is yet to come. Mukesh is also facing charges. But mere charges or charge-sheets against someone do not make the person guilty. In Mukesh’s case, the court verdict is yet to come.”
In September, Shivpal expelled seven leaders who are considered close to Akhilesh, including Sunil Yadav, Sanjay Lathar and Anand Bhadoria (all legislators) and Gaurav Dubey and Mohammed Abad (the national and state heads of the party’s youth wing, respectively). In protest, a number of office-bearers of the party who support Akhilesh resigned.
Said Brijesh Yadav, one of the expelled leaders: “The charges on which we were expelled are baseless. Akhilesh Yadav is our leader. We had voiced our protest when he was sacked from the post of state party president, but we never revolted.”
The feud within the party also reflects in the newly announced 81-member state executive committee of the SP. The committee, announced by Shivpal on October 6, comprises leaders loyal to himself and Mulayam. Prominent leaders who support Akhilesh, such as Rajpal Kashyap, Naimal Hasan, Amitabh Bajpai, Nafees Ahmad and Nirbhay Patel, have been shown the door. In fact, even Akhilesh has been kept out of the state executive. “The committee has been constituted with the consent of Mulayam Singh and Akhilesh Yadav,” said Shivpal. “The names have been included after taking their approval.”
With his support to Shivpal and the decisions he has taken, Mulayam has undermined Akhilesh’s authority as chief minister. He had even gone to the extent of reprimanding his son in public. The feeling now is that once the party tickets are finalised, the family feud will worsen. That is bad news for the SP, as any attempt to sideline Akhilesh will affect its electoral prospects.
Who’s fighting whom, and why
* Father vs son: With his decisions and public reprimands, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has undermined Akhilesh Yadav’s authority as chief minister. Mulayam backs Shivpal Singh Yadav, his brother and state party president, who does not see eye to eye with Akhilesh on many issues.
* Uncle vs nephew: Shivpal expelled Akhilesh loyalists from the party; kept Akhilesh out of the state executive; gave tickets to tainted politicians; and allowed merger of Quami Ekta Dal with the SP, despite his nephew’s protests.
* Cousin vs cousin: Ram Gopal Yadav, MP and Mulayam’s cousin, supports Akhilesh in his battle with Shivpal. Ram Gopal’s son, Akshay Yadav, MP, too, supports the chief minister.
* Family vs ‘outsider’: Both Akhilesh and Ram Gopal do not like Amar Singh, who returned to the party and was appointed national general secretary. Singh, however, has the backing of Mulayam and Shivpal, as he is considered an expert in managing and mobilising resources for the party.