The Samajwadi Party on Saturday expelled a leader close to chief minister Akhilesh Yadav for anti-party activities, signalling a hardening of stand against rebels amid a raging power struggle in the ruling family in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh.
The party’s state chief Shivpal Yadav also appointed new office-bearers for its youth and other frontal organisations, potentially closing the door on seven Akhilesh loyalists who headed these outfits before they were expelled last month.
Saturday’s fast-paced developments indicated that the senior leadership of the party could be tilting towards Shivpal, leaving Akhilesh isolated in the run-up to next year’s assembly polls and deepening prospects of a split in the party.
Before the decisions were announced, several party veterans, including Kiranmoy Nanda, Naresh Agarwal and Beni Prasad Verma, met SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and suggested action against those guilty of indiscipline and anti-party acts. Shivpal was also present in the meeting held in Mulayam’s residence.
A state executive committee meeting held on Saturday also passed a resolution that no mercy should be shown to those who flouted party discipline.
Udaiveer Singh, a member of the legislative council, was expelled for six years after he wrote a letter to Mulayam asking him step down as SP president to make way for Akhilesh.
“I stand by the letter, won’t apologise, don’t regret and I am with chief minister Akhilesh Yadav,” Singh said after he was expelled.
Singh also alleged in the letter Shivpal was acting as the political front of the chief minister’s stepmother, a view said to be shared by a section in the party.
The crisis in the party was sparked by the appointment of Shivpal as state president replacing Akhilesh. Akhilesh had retaliated by stripping Shivpal of key ministerial portfolios and dropping two ministers accused of corruption.
The power struggle intensified after Shivpal expelled the youth leaders and went ahead with merging a party floated by a jailed gangster with SP despite Akhilesh’s objections.
Though Mulayam managed to broker an uneasy truce, Akhilesh’s decision to start his poll campaign and go on a yatra two days before the party silver jubilee celebrations, on November 5, indicated widening of the fissures.
The seven youth leaders were expelled for raising slogans against party leadership after Akhilesh was removed as party’s state president last month.
Mulayam has convened a meeting of party legislators and ministers on Sunday but it was unclear whether Akhilesh will attend it.
Akhilesh had skipped a meeting called by Shivpal on Friday.
Beni Prasad Verma, who returned to the party from the Congress recently, said, “Netaji (Mulayam) is deeply pained. What has happened (Singh’s letter) hurt Mulayam Singh’s prestige.
“I would request Akhilesh to get things sorted out. It is time to close ranks (with assembly polls just months away)... there is little time.”
(With agency inputs)