Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on Tuesday named Amar Singh the party general secretary, a move seen as a setback to chief minister Akhilesh Yadav who had opposed the Rajya Sabha member’s return to the party.
The surprise move and the way it was conveyed -- Mulayam issued a handwritten note from Delhi which was released by state unit president Shivpal Yadav in Lucknow – is a signal that the SP patriarch is taking control of the party.
“I appoint you as the national general secretary of the party and hope that you will play a significant role in the party for 2017 UP assembly elections and also in strengthening the party,” the note read.
In another blow to the young chief minister, the party decided Mulayam, and not Akhilesh, would kick off SP’s campaign for the Uttar Pradesh election due early next year.
The party had been caught in a damaging power struggle between Mulayam’s son Akhilesh and younger brother Shivpal. Part of the crisis has been attributed to Akhilesh’s sour ties with Amar Singh, a close aide of his father who returned to party recently and was nominated to the Rajya Sabha.
“I will no longer refer to that ‘outsider’ as uncle,” Akhilesh had said in a veiled reference to Singh, blaming him for the family feud. Singh is considered close to Shivpal and his return was opposed by Akhilesh and other party leaders.
The differences between the two came out in the open when last week Akhilesh took away three portfolios from Shivpal hours after Mulayam removed the chief minister as the UP party chief and named his brother to the position.
Mulayam managed an uneasy truce between them when he asked Akhilesh to take back Shivpal in the cabinet and accept him as the UP party chief.
Two days after taking charge, Shivpal on Monday expelled seven youth leaders close to Akhilesh for alleged indiscipline and readily accepted the resignations of more than 20 functionaries who quit in protest.
On Tuesday, he called a meeting to plan the party’s October 8 rally in Azamgarh, Mulayam’s Lok Sabha constituency. The rally is the first in a series of meetings to launch the party’s campaign.
The rally would showcase Mulayam as the “party”, Shivpal as the man in control of the organisation in the state and Akhilesh as the chief ministerial face, said an MLA who attended the meeting.
The party is yet to announce its chief ministerial candidate -- it didn’t name one ahead of the 2012 election – but on October 8 some indications are expected.
In an interview to HT on Monday, Shivpal had said Akhilesh would be the CM candidate but the chief minister’s supporters dismissed the remarks as a damage control after mass sackings and resignations of young leaders.
Akhilesh, who had put off his rath yatra to October 3, would embark on it only after the Azamgarh rally, the MLA said.
The rath yatra aims to make development the party’s poll plank. Akhilesh, who took over as the youngest chief minister of UP at 38 in 2012, wants to break from the Samajwadi Party’s identity politics and fight the election on an agenda of development and clean governance.