Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on Friday forged an uneasy truce between his chief minister-son Akhilesh and brother Shivpal to end a damaging power struggle in the party five months ahead of the state election.
The young chief minister, however, looks determined to come out of his powerful father’s shadow and have a say in the poll strategy, decided by Mulayam -- or Netaji as he is known -- and his brothers since the party’s inception in 1992.
The party plunged into a crisis early this week after Akhilesh took away three portfolios from Shivpal hours after Mulayam removed the chief minister as the UP party president and named his brother to the position.
“I am ready to return party posts and even portfolios but I must have the power to distribute tickets because the forthcoming poll is after all a test for me and my party,” Akhilesh told India TV.
In the evening, he tweeted, “Portfolios will be given back to Mr. Shivpal Singh Yadav.”
That as well as taking back cabinet minister Gayatri Prasad Prajapati, a Shivpal loyalist sacked by Akhilesh, were part of a compromise worked out by Mulayam to end the feuding in the party, sources said.
The SP patriarch announced at the party office in Lucknow that there was no rift in the party and that it would “not split” till he was around.
“We have a big family, differences may occur... There is no fight between Shivpal Yadav and Akhilesh,” he told party members.
Differences in the Yadav clan have been simmering for a while and can be attributed to a generational clash.
Akhilesh, who took over as the youngest chief minister of Uttar Pradesh at 38 in 2012, wants to break from the Samajwadi Party’s identity politics of the past and fight the election on an agenda of development and clean governance.
Part of the crisis in the party has also been attributed to Akhilesh’s sour ties with Amar Singh, a close aide of his father who returned to Samajwadi Party recently and was made a Rajya Sabha member. Earlier in the day, Akhilesh took a dig at Singh.
“I will no longer refer to that ‘outsider’ as uncle,” he said in a veiled reference to Singh.
Singh is considered close to Shivpal and his return was opposed by Akhilesh and other party leaders. Shivpal has stood firm and said, “Amar Singh can never harm the parivaar. There are many people or “outsiders” around Akhilesh also.”
A bigger point of conflict, however, is the question of who gets to decide the party candidates for the 2017 polls.
Akhilesh is the CM face and he would like to have the final say. He is not keen on re-nominating at least 55 MLAs, sources said.
But, he is likely to face stiff resistance from Shivpal, who also told India TV that Mulayam wanted him to continue as the UP party chief.
“Ticket distribution will be done by Netaji,” said Shivpal, in comments that signaled he might not be ready to cede ground to his nephew.
Shivpal and Akhilesh’s statements came hours after Mulayam, who flew down to Lucknow on Thursday from Delhi, sat down his feuding son and brother to end the family war that is threatening to tear the party asunder.
Shivpal looked isolated on Friday. Most of the ministers stayed away from him and Ramgopal Yadav, Mulayam’s cousin, confidante and an influential figure in SP, chose to side with Akhilesh.
Mulayam Singh Yadav says the Samjwadi Party will not split till he is around. He even sat down his feuding son and brother but they continue to speak in different voices.
On Amar Singh
Akhilesh: Netaji and I have decided not to allow any "outsider" to interfere in the party and family affairs. I will never again call the "outsider" uncle.
Shivpal: Netaji consented his return. Amar Singh can never harm the parivaar. There are many people or "outsiders" around Akhilesh also.
On ticket distribution
Akhilesh: I am willing to return the post (state presidentship) and departments but I must have a say in ticket distribution.
Shivpal: Ticket distribution is Netaji’s prerogative.
On leading the SP’s state unit
Akhilesh: I also lost something. My state presidentship is gone.
Shivpal: I had resigned from the post and wanted to work as a party worker. Netaji has entrusted me with a big responsibility. I will give it my best shot. We have to bring the party back in power with a bigger majority.
The chacha-bhatija relationship
Akhilesh: He is my chacha and younger brother of my father and will always remain so.
Shivpal: I brought him up -- from when he was four to till he finished school. My wife, too, was devoted to him. Though he is a nephew, he was more like a son to me. The son has got the chief ministerial chair.
Text by Pankaj Jaiswal