Generational shifts in family-owned regional parties have always ruffled feathers, ending in splits and desertions.
In UP’s ruling Samajwadi Party, the cauldron has been simmering ever since founder-president Mulayam Singh Yadav handed over the chief minister’s chair to his son Akhilesh Yadav, much against the wishes of his brother Shivpal Singh Yadav.
But with all decisions vested in him, Mulayam continued to play the peacemaker, time and again brushing differences under the carpet.
On several occasions he, as head of the family as well as party, publicly reprimanded his chief minister son, primarily to assuage seniors or thwart any simmering rebellion in his huge family as well as the party.
Now the war for control over the party has both his son and brother staking their claim. Ticket distribution for next year’s assembly polls is said to be an escalating factor.
Mulayam will have to decide who will finally inherit his legacy. Any compromise formula evolved by him is going to be short-lived. Even though Shivpal and Akhilesh have professed to follow Mulayam’s patch-up formula, the storm is unlikely to subside.
Shivpal, the go-to man for Mulayam, has a large following in the party. But over the years Akhilesh has also learnt the tricks of the trade and built a base.
Politically, Mulayam knows the party requires both Akhilesh and Shivpal and to fight a resurgent BJP. As an astute politician, he knows Akhilesh is the popular face while Shivpal’s organisational skills can’t be ignored.
Many who had hailed the astuteness of Mulayam for smooth transfer of power to his son after the 2012 polls have been proved wrong.
The present crisis goes back to the time when Shivpal announced merger of Mukhtar Ansari’s party Qaumi Ekta Dal with SP in June. Akhilesh opposed it and the merger was revoked.
In his balancing act, Mulayam pressured Akhilesh to appoint Deepak Singhal as the chief secretary, much against his son’s wishes. In August, when Shivpal offered to resign alleging “wrongful acts” by some in the party, Mulayam jumped to his rescue, saying that the party will split if Shivpal quits.
Apparently, Mulayam was upset with Akhilesh as he had started taking independent decisions.
A tussle erupted again when Akhilesh sacked two ministers, including Gayatri Prajapati, understood to be close to Mulayam, following a CBI inquiry into mining activity in the state.
Party sources reveal that at Prajapati’s insistence, Mulayam asked the CM to remove Singhal and take back Prajapati. Later, on demand of his friends in the party, Mulayam even asked Akhilesh to take back the CS.
When Akhilesh refused, an irked Mulayam removed the CM from the state presidentship. In retaliation, Akhilesh divested Shivpal of key ministries.
Mulayam’s flip- flop, on pressure from family and friends and on issues ranging from removal of ministers to political decisions of merger and alliances, is not new.
Interestingly all the actors involved in the drama -- Deepak Singhal, Gayatri Prajapati, Amar Singh, Shivpal -- are close to Mulayam.
And he wanted Akhilesh’s decisions of sacking of Prajapati and the chief secretary reversed. Akhilesh refused, and the CM was removed from the state president’s post.
The questions remain: will Mulayam restore Akhilesh to the state president’s post? And will Shivpal forgo the party position that he was aspiring for with elections close by?