Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav sacked his uncle and rival Shivpal Yadav from the cabinet on Sunday, intensifying a family power tussle that threatens to jeopardize the party’s chances in next year’s assembly polls.
Akhilesh announced the decision to sack Shadab Fatima, Narad Rai, Shivpal Yadav and Om Prakash Singh after meeting party legislators – roughly a month after stripping Shivpal, who is the SP state president, of key portfolios.
Sunday’s surprise decision indicates a hardening of stands by both camps – the new and young wing of the party led by Akhilesh and the old guard represented by Shivpal – as the party readies to fight a tough election, battling mounting anti-incumbency.
At the meeting, the CM said the MP, Amar Singh – a confidante of Akhilesh’s father and SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav – was damaging the party and anyone close to him couldn’t be in the UP cabinet, legislator Vijay Mishra told Hindustan Times.
Akhilesh also removed Amar Singh’s protégé and film actor Jaya Prada from the position of vice-chairperson of the UP film development corporation.
“We told Akhilesh that Amar Singh is anti-social and should be thrown out of the party,” Faizabad MLA Pawan Pandey – known to be close to Akhilesh and Mulayam – told HT, as slogans of “Amar Singh chor hai (Amar Singh is a thief) resonated outside the CM’s residence. Amar Singh is seen by many in the Akhilesh camp as the instigator behind the current power tussle.
Shivpal’s removal comes a day after he expelled a leader close to Akhilesh for anti-party activities and appointed new office-bearers for its youth and other frontal organisations, potentially closing the door on seven CM loyalists who headed these outfits before they were expelled last month.
The crisis in the party was sparked by the appointment of Shivpal as state president replacing Akhilesh, who retaliated by stripping Shivpal of key ministerial portfolios and dropping two ministers accused of corruption.
The power struggle intensified after Shivpal expelled the youth leaders and went ahead with merging a party floated by a jailed gangster with SP despite Akhilesh’s objections.
Mulayam managed to broker an uneasy truce and Akhilesh gave up Shivpal’s portfolios, except the crucial public works department. But the CM’s decision to start his poll campaign and go on a yatra two days before the party silver jubilee celebrations, on November 5, indicated a widening of the fissures.
Sunday’s decision came just hours after a controversial letter by party national secretary Ram Gopal Yadav, who appeared to throw his weight behind Akhilesh and asking the CM’s camp to ‘sharpen their attack”. “Those who are opposing Akhilesh will never get into Vidhan Sabha. Don’t fear, don’t waver. Victory is where Akhilesh is”.