There is no ‘matbhed’ (difference of opinion) or ‘manbhed’ (ill feelings) in the Samajwadi Party, Uttar Pradesh satrap Mulayam Singh Yadav said on Tuesday, as he struggled to contain an acrimonious family feud that has pushed the party to the brink of a split.
Mulayam and his brother Shivpal addressed a press conference in an apparent show of unity but the absence of chief minister Akhilesh raised more questions than the party patriarch answered.
Shortly afterwards, Akhilesh brought down the façade of unity once again when he is understood to have said that he will neither take back Shivpal into his cabinet nor agree to work with Amar Singh, blamed by a section in the party for the crisis.
“Amar Singh to blame. He is misusing my father’s trust,” a TV channel quoted Akhilesh as saying. The chief minister also said he “will not split the party” but fight till the end.
Akhilesh had met Mulayam earlier during the day but the family strains appeared to have remained.
Mulayam, a former defence minister, defended Amar Singh, a Rajya Sabha MP who returned to the SP recently.
“Why do you drag him (Amar) into all this?” said Mulayam, who read out his answers from a piece of paper, indicating that he had come prepared to handle uncomfortable questions.
Mulayam also sparked anger among Akhilesh’s supporters on Tuesday by refusing, for the second time, to name his son as the party’s chief ministerial candidate. Angry workers tried to storm the party headquarters demanding in protest.
“We are a democratic party. People voted for me in (the) 2012 assembly elections but Akhilesh was appointed CM with the consent of all senior party leaders. I am sure the people would vote for us again and the elected legislators would decide who would be their CM,” Mulayam said.
A wrestler-turned-politician, Mulayam had publicly abused Akhilesh on Monday, pointedly dismissing his son as an insignificant entity in UP politics who could not win an election without his support.
Shivpal’s elevation as the state SP president replacing Akhilesh last month sparked the ugly power struggle in the family, threatening to derail the ruling party’s prospects in the assembly polls due early next year.
The party’s senior leadership led by Mulayam was seen as tilting towards Shivpal, who has taken a harsh stand on anyone backing Akhilesh.
Akhilesh’s rebellion is being read as his attempt to shake off the hold of Mulayam and other leaders who are known to pull the strings in the party and the government.
Mulayam, however, insisted that the party and family were united.
“Our family is united, the party is united...We stand united with full strength,” Mulayam said in the hurriedly-called media conference, his first since Akhilesh sacked Shivpal from the cabinet.
Mulayam, who was also accompanied by three sacked ministers, skirted a question on whether Shivpal would be re-inducted into the government.
“It is up to the CM to decide and I am sure he must be listening to what you people are asking,” he said.