The feud-riddled Samajwadi Party hurtled towards a split after its national president Mulayam Singh Yadav expelled on Friday Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and general secretary Ramgopal Yadav from the party for six years.
The shock move came a day after Akhilesh, the party patriarch’s son, came up with his own list of 235 candidates for next year’s assembly polls. His action was viewed as defiance to his father and his uncle, who had released the party’s official list earlier, ignoring leaders considered close to the chief minister.
“Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav doesn’t understand. Ramgopal is trying to weaken him,” Mulayam said at a press conference. “To save the party, we have expelled both Ramgopal and Akhilesh Yadav for six years...”
The expulsion put in doubt continuance of the state’s youngest chief minister. Talks of the Centre bringing the state under President’s Rule are doing the rounds. But legal experts said the chief minister’s ouster from the party didn’t mean failure of constitutional machinery in the state — often an alibi for central rule.
The governor has the option of asking the chief minister to prove his majority in the assembly. Sources said Akhilesh has 175 loyal legislators by his side, but need the support of 27 more to stay afloat.
Governor Ram Naik is said to be “keeping a watch” on the situation, which he described as “an intra-party issue”.
The 43-year-old Akhilesh has been engaged in an intense power struggle with his family’s elders, especially uncle Shivpal Yadav, who enjoys the backing of brother Mulayam. The feud reached its flashpoint when Mulayam listed 325 party candidates for the 403-member assembly and ruled out projecting Akhilesh for the chief minister’s post.
The leadership announced the rest of the names, barring eight, on Friday.
Mulayam, who formed the party in 1992, remained defiant too and almost ruled out any reconciliation.
“Akhilesh kya mafi mangega ... woh to ladta hain. Pita manta ho toh dekha jayega (What will Akhilesh apologise for? He keeps fighting. I’ll think if he considers me his father),” he said.
Before his announcement, Mulayam sent showcause notices to Akhilesh and Ramgopal, the party chief’s cousin who is a vocal supporter of the chief minister, over the parallel list of candidates.
“Netaji doesn’t know the party’s constitution that well ...This is unconstitutional as both of us were expelled within two hours (after the notices were served) without letting us reply,” Ramgopal hit out.
A vertical split looked imminent, as Mulayam has summoned all candidates from his lists for a meeting on Saturday morning.
Ramgopal too called an “emergency national meeting open to all party members” on Sunday. The meeting is likely to elect Akhilesh as the national president of the party as his loyalists want to contest against the official candidates.
A possible implosion in the ruling party is likely to give the BJP and four-time chief minister Mayawati’s BSP a welcome leg-up before the crucial elections.
BJP president Amit Shah, credited for the party’s outstanding show in UP in the 2014 parliamentary polls, considers the Samajwadis as the main rival because of the Muslim goodwill towards Mulayam.
The BJP’s reaction to events within the SP was sharp. “After the new development, Akhilesh Yadav must immediately resign,” senior BJP leader Yogi Adityanath said.
For her part, Mayawati has 125 Muslim candidates for the 2017 elections — a clear sign that she too is trying to court the community.
The Congress steered clear of “internal matters” of the SP’s first family. Party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said: “There is a situation of political instability. It has to go.”
The Congress could offer a lifeboat to Akhilesh if he decides to contest the elections on his own. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi had described Akhilesh as a good man a few months ago. There have been reports that Mulayam was miffed with his son for allegedly trying to forge an alliance with the Congress.
Immediately, if the chief minister needs to prove his strength on the floor of the assembly, the 28 Congress lawmakers would come in handy.
(With inputs from HTC in Delhi)