Southwest Uttar Pradesh has a small place where people, unlike in other parts of the state, have a different take on two key characters of the ruling Yadav family in the state where elections are round the corner.
At Saifai in Etawah district, the ‘chacha-bhatija’ relation between the new state president of the Samajwadi Party and the chief minister does the rounds with affection-brimming anecdotes. The ties between Shivpal Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav would almost sound fabled.
The general refrain of the villagers goes thus: “Shivpal ne Akhilesh ko paala hai, Netaji ke paas rajneeti ke alawa kisi cheez ke liye waqt nahin tha (Shivpal brought Akhilesh up, Mulayam never had time for anything other than politics).”
It was Shivpal who was Akhilesh’s local guardian in Saifai. He sent Akhilesh to school and fetched him back. Akhliesh’s fondness for Shivpal was “natural”. It went on to be so even when Akhilesh stepped into politics in 2000 and won Kannauj Lok Sabha bypolls.
Almost a decade later, their relation started getting sour. That was in 2009, when Shivpal was the state president of the party. Mulayam was not happy with the SP’s show in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Mulayam removed Shivpal from the state presidentship and installed his son, Akhilesh, as the state SP chief.
Akhilesh, who had consolidated the party’s youth cadre in his long tenure as the national president of all the youth wings of the party, went on an intense campaign through bicycle yatras and ‘Kranti rath’. The party, for the first time, came to power with a full majority in the 2012 assembly polls.
The Shivpal-Akhilesh relation further strained.
Mulayam, influenced by his party national general secretary Ramgopal Yadav , had propped up Akhilesh to the chief minister’s chair, while uncle Shivpal overtly wanted Mulayam to be the CM and covertly wanted the position for himself.
Shivpal, an ambitious politician, always thought he would carry forward Mulayam’s legacy. He sulked as Akhilesh was set to become the CM. When the government was installed, Shivpal and veteran Azam Khan—a notable Muslim face—became senior ministers in the Akhilesh cabinet.
The situation did not change since then and the bitterness between them began often surfacing. It showed four months ago when Mulayam made Shivpal the Uttar Pradesh in-charge of the party, while Akhilesh was the state president.
Shivpal was happy, Akhilesh was not. When Shivpal began fielding candidates of his choice, Akhilesh turned angry. The CM never attended any of the press announcements of lists of party candidates for 2017.
Things turned bad on June 25 when Shivpal, through his efforts, merged criminal-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari’s QED into the SP. Akhilesh saw red and opposed the move.
The SP broke ties with QED. Shivpal took this as an insult. Akhilesh did not stop at that. He sacked senior minister Balram Yadav from the cabinet , for he had helped Shivpal in negotiating the deal with QED. Amar Singh took Shivpal’s side.
Things went out of hands of Mulayam when Shivpal, in Mainpuri on August 14, said: “I will resign...I am being humiliated. There is a conspiracy against me.”
Mulayam considering this an imminent crack in the party; took Shivpal’s side and reprimanded the Akhilesh government. Shivpal said officers were not listening to him.
Mulayam said, “It would be the disaster for the party if Shivpal leaves.” He asked Akhilesh to take corrective measures. Akhilesh was not happy with the new chief secretary, Deepak Singhal, who was Shivpal’s right-hand man in the state bureaucracy.
A series of developments ensued after Akhilesh sacked tainted Gyatri Prasad Prajapati and Raj Kishore Singh from the Cabinet this Monday. Raj Kishore was Shivpal’s favourite.
On Tuesday, Akhilesh removed Deepak Singhal from the post of chief secretary and brought in Rahul Bhatnagar. This time, Mulayam reacted in favour of Shivpal and removed Akhilesh as the state president and brought in Shivpal.
Akhilesh retaliated by sacking Shivpal from key ministries further precipitating the situation.