Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav will skip the Samajwadi Party’s silver jubilee celebrations next month, potentially escalating a bruising power struggle within the ruling family that is threatening to split the party ahead of next year’s assembly polls.
The move by Akhilesh, who indicated he might also skip a crucial meeting of the party’s state executive on October 22, is seen as an endorsement of a similar move by a group of youth leaders who were expelled by his uncle and new state SP president Shivpal Yadav.
The youth leaders are known to be close to Akhilesh.
Sources said the chief minister conveyed his decision to his father and party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav through a letter, copies of which were also sent to Shivpal and SP national general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav.
Shivpal’s elevation to the post of SP state president replacing Akhilesh last month had sparked the power struggle within the family.
Akhilesh retaliated by divesting Shivpal, also a minister, of key portfolios besides dropping two ministers facing corruption charges.
Mulayam managed to broker a truce but his refusal to back Akhilesh on several issues including the merger of a party floated by a jailed gangster worsened the situation. Akhilesh was opposed to the merger, managed by Shivpal. Mulayam’s refusal to project his son as the party’s chief ministerial candidate earlier this week also precipitated matters, sources said.
Mulayam met Akhilesh and Shivpal at his 5 Vikramaditya Marg residence on Wednesday to discuss the rebels’ refusal to attend the celebrations. Though it was not known what transpired in the meeting, Akhilesh shot off the letter shortly after leaving his father’s residence.
In the letter, Akhilesh said he will launch his long-awaited election campaign on November 3, two days ahead of the celebrations.
“For some reasons, the yatra could not begin. All the political parties are busy with their election campaigns now. Under such circumstances, I am going to launch the poll campaign...for the formation of the government,” the chief minister said.
A senior SP leader said Akhilesh demanded withdrawal of the expulsion order against the youth leaders and a say in ticket distribution.
The ruling party, facing a tough challenge from the BJP and the Congress in the polls, was keen on presenting a united face during the celebrations. But the churning could have far-reaching consequences if Mulayam fails to control the damage fast to prevent a voter backlash in the elections due early next year.
Akhilesh’s actions are being seen as an attempt to assert himself in the party long dominated by his father and Shivpal who are seen as the real powers behind the throne.
Akhilesh’s supporters shifted their functioning from the SP office to another building this month.
Earlier in the day, Akhilesh indicated he was not keen on attending the state executive meet on Saturday.
“Who goes to the executive committee meeting?” the chief minister said on the sidelines of an official programme.
Akhilesh is not a member of the state executive committee which was re-constituted recently by Shivpal.