Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on Friday forged an uneasy truce between his chief minister son Akhilesh and brother Shivpal to end a damaging power struggle in the party five months ahead of the state election.
The young chief minister, however, looks determined to come out of his powerful father’s shadow and have a say in the poll strategy, which is decided by Mulayam -- or Netaji as he is better known as -- and his brothers since the party’s inception in 1992.
“I am ready to return party posts and even portfolios but I must have the power to distribute tickets because the forthcoming poll is after all a test for me and my party,” Akhilesh told India TV during an election programme.
The CM agreed to comply with “Netaji’s order” to take back Gayatri Prasad Prajapati in the cabinet and reject Shivpal’s resignation from the party and the government.
He also took a dig at Amar Singh, a close aide of his father who returned to the party recently and was rewarded with a Rajya Sabha berth. “I will no longer refer to that ‘outsider’ as uncle,” Akhilesh said in an obvious reference to Singh.
Singh is considered close to Shivpal and his return was opposed by Akhilesh and other party leaders.
Akhilesh is the CM face and he would like to have the final say in the selection of party candidates. Sources said he didn’t want to repeat at least 55 members of the legislative assembly.
He is likely to face stiff resistance from Shivpal, who said at the same TV programme that Mulayam wanted him to continue as the UP party chief.
“Ticket distribution will be done by Netaji,” said Shivpal, who doesn’t seem ready to cede any ground to his nephew, which could lead to fresh round of infighting.
The belligerent words from Shivpal and Akhilesh came hours after Mulayam, who flew down to Lucknow on Thursday, sat down his feuding son and brother to end the family war that threatens to tear apart the party.
The simmering differences between the two came out in the open when Akhilesh stripped Shivpal of three important portfolios after Mulayam removed him as the UP party chief and named his brother to the position.
Akhilesh’s decision to sack Prajapati and another minister Rajkishore Singh, both facing corruption charges, and replace the state’s top official had not gone down well with Shivpal.
Shivpal, however, looked isolated on Friday. Most of the ministers stayed away from him and Ram Gopal Yadav, Mulayam’s cousin, confidante and an influential figure in SP, chose to side with the chief minister.
Mulayam declared at the party office in Lucknow that there was no rift and the party would “not split” till he was around.