The Samajwadi Party’s power struggle took another dramatic turn on the New Year’s Day, as chief minister Akhilesh Yadav staged a coup by getting elected the party chief, ousting his father Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Akhilesh, whose show of strength on Saturday had forced Mulayam to take him back after expulsion, dealt a double blow to his 77-year-old father.
At the “extraordinary national convention” called by Akhilesh’s faction, a decision was also taken to sack Shivpal Yadav as the state party chief and throw parliamentarian Amar Singh out of the SP. The two leaders are considered the CM’s top adversaries and are close to Mulayam.
“I will take every step to save my father (from conspirators) and strengthen the party. I am ready to make sacrifices,” Akhilesh said.
“Sometimes to protect the ones u love u must make right decision. What I did today was a tough decision but 1 tht I had to take,” the 43-year-old CM tweeted late on Sunday, referring to his move to snatch party control.
The convention was attended by more than 200 of the SP’s 229 legislators, ministers and tens of thousands of workers. The power shift was for all to see -- several leaders considered close to Mulayam were at the meeting.
Akhilesh named a loyalist, Naresh Uttam, as Shivpal’s replacement. The 55-year-old member of the legislature council was Akhilesh’s deputy when he was the state party chief.
But the bruising battle for control of the party ahead of the state election due in coming months appeared far from over. Hours later, Mulayam declared the meeting illegal and called a separate national convention on January 5.
He also sacked his cousin and party general secretary, Ramgopal Yadav --- the second such action against him in as many days, member of Parliament Naresh Agarwal and SP vice-president Kiranmoy Nanda. The three had shared the stage with Akhilesh.
“Akhilesh is the political heir to Netaji. The party will go into polls under his leadership, and he will be the face of the party,” said Nanda, a long-time aide to Mulayam.
“Mulayam Singh is my father and continues to hold the highest position for the party and me,” the CM said.
A brawl broke out on the streets of Lucknow as groups of workers from camps loyal to Akhilesh and Mulayam fought to gain control of the party office.
“I will take every step to save my father (from conspirators) and strengthen the party. I am ready to make sacrifices,” Akhilesh said. “Mulayam Singh is my father and continues to hold the highest position for the party and me.”
But the status of Akhilesh’s elevation as party chief and the “expulsions” remained unclear as Mulayam didn’t step down as national president and had not accepted the chief patron’s position announced for him.
Shivpal said he and Mulayam would go to Delhi and meet the Election Commission to retain the party symbol – a bicycle.
The power play between Shivpal, who is Mulayam’s younger brother, and Akhilesh is at the root of the SP’s factional feud, which has led to a series of tit-for-tat sackings and a parallel candidates list, causing confusion in the party.
Mulayam has on most occasions sided with his brother.
On Saturday, Mulayam revoked Akhilesh’s expulsion from the party following a groundswell of support for the young leader.
That support was also visible on Sunday as massive crowds cheered Akhilesh’s elevation and the announcement that the CM would appoint a new parliamentary board and all state units.
“Ticket distribution (by Shivpal) was wrong. These people never wanted Samajwadi Party to form the next government in the state,” Ramgopal, who had called the meeting, said.
The cheers grew louder when Shivpal’s ouster and Amar’s expulsion were demanded.
On Saturday, 214 party MLAs had attended a meeting called by Akhilesh and but stayed away from Mulayam’s meeting.
They all attended the convention too. But more significant was the presence of top leaders considered loyal to Mulayam – minister Ahmed Hasan, MLC SRS Yadav, Nanda and Agarwal. Maharashtra state president Abu Asim Azmi, a known Mulayam loyalist, also flew in from Mumbai for the meeting.
For the latest updates on the Yadav family feud, click here