The Samajwadi Party will decide on its chief ministerial candidate after the elections, party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav said on Friday, refusing to back his son Akhilesh amid a bruising feud within Uttar Pradesh’s ruling family.
Mulayam’s announcement at a press conference came in the presence of his brother Shivpal, whose elevation as the party’s state president last month replacing Akhilesh had spilled out the family’s differences in public.
An angry Akhilesh, the chief minister, divested Shivpal of key portfolios in retaliation. Mulayam managed to broker a truce between the two power centres but the undercurrent of tension remains, potentially threatening to derail the party’s preparations to defend the throne in the assembly polls due early next year.
“The chief ministerial candidate will be decided by the elected party legislators and parliamentary board. This is our job. This is not your (media) work,” he said.
“This is what had happened (in 2012). All are aware that in 2012, the people had voted for me. But I felt that I had become ‘kalam-ghisu’ (one who puts signatures on tomes of papers) in my three terms as chief minister and also as the Union defence minister. The party’s MLAs and the parliamentary board finalised the CM (Akhilesh).”
Mulayam’s refusal to project Akhilesh as the man for the top job is being seen as an attempt to keep him and his supporters on a tight leash and stem any dissent against Shivpal.
Reports quoted Akhilesh as saying that he will start campaign alone if he does not find any support, in what is being seen as his growing isolation in the party. In 2012 too, Akhilesh had campaigned on his own as no big leader participated in his ‘Kranti Rath’ yatra. He had also stayed away from rallies addressed by party veterans.
Mulayam, however, denied any rift in the party and family despite visible signs of Akhilesh’s displeasure with several of Shivpal’s decisions including the merger with the Quami Ekta Dal, a party floated by a jailed gangster and the naming of a murder accused as a candidate for the polls.
The BJP, attempting to capture power in the state after 14 years, took as dig at the SP over the turf war.
Party president Amit Shah on Friday said the ruling party should first try to control the “infighting” within it.
“The government has failed to control law and order in the state. How will those who cannot control law and order in their own family control the state,” Shah said at a rally in Kanpur.
“UP is very big Akhilesh bhaiya (brother)...first of all, control your family... only then will a bit of peace return to the state.”
(With agency inputs)