The feud in the ruling Samjwadi Party’s first family was out in the open at an event held to mark the 49th death anniversary of party ideologue and socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia on Wednesday.
Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, who reached the venue an hour behind schedule, attended the programme at Lohia Park with cabinet minister and younger brother Shivpal Yadav.
His son and chief minister Akhilesh, who has a running feud with Shivpal, paid floral tributes to Lohia and left before Mulayam arrived on the spot.
Akhilesh’s supporters, most of them members of the SP youth brigade, too, followed their leader, leaving half the chairs at the venue empty.
The signs are that the rift in the party is widening as the state election, due early next year, draw close. Recent decisions in the party and the government indicate that Mulayam is backing Shivpal, who is also the SP’s state chief, over Akhilesh.
Last week, the party, overlooking the chief minister’s reservation, announced the merger of the Quami Ekta Dal (QED) of mafia don-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari with it. The merger, called off in June, was announced by Shivpal, who also replaced a few party candidates.
In the past, Lohia’s death or birth anniversary events were marked by party leaders putting up a joint front and exhorting workers to spread the socialist icon’s message and strengthen the party.
But Wednesday, the buzz was missing.
“Earlier, workers used to register strong protest when rivals attacked SP leadership. The old fervour is missing these days” Mulayam said while addressing party workers.
He also pulled them up for abandoning the ideals of Lohia. “Instead of campaigning hard for the coming assembly election, workers are busy in slogan shouting to draw the attention of leaders,” he said.
The party saw its fair share of sloganeering in August when the damaging power struggle in the Yadav clan came out in the open after Akhilesh stripped Shivpal of three portfolios hours after Mulayam removed the chief minister as the UP party chief and named his brother to the position.
Shivpal also carried out a purge of young SP leaders, many of whom were known Akhilesh supporters.
Shivpal returned to the cabinet as part of a peace formula hammered out by Mulayam but the party is increasingly looking divided. The feud could have a bearing on election outcome, with Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party eyeing a comeback in the state and the BJP keen to repeat its Lok Sabha success in state polls.
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