Apparently upset with the expulsion of two of his top lieutenants, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav did not show up for the opening of the prestigious Saifai Mahotsava on Saturday.
The dismissals, which have caused an upheaval in the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP), and Akhilesh’s subsequent absence from the festival have raised many an eyebrow in the state’s political circles. Rajendra Chaudhary, SP spokesperson and minister, said he was “clueless” about the circumstances that led to the chief minister’s absence.
The SP leadership had expelled Sunil Singh Yadav ‘Saajan’, former national president of the Samajwadi Chhatra Sabha, and Anand Bhadauria , the erstwhile national president of the Samajwadi Lohia Vahini, from the party on Friday. Though Akhilesh is also the president of the party’s state unit, the announcement regarding their expulsion was made by senior minister Shivpal Singh Yadav – the chief minister’s uncle. “Aapko toh paata hi hai woh kyun nahin aaye (you know why he did not turn up),” said an SP leader, when asked about Akhilesh’s conspicuous absence on the opening day of the Saifai Mahotsava.
A source said Akhilesh was disgruntled over not being consulted on the expulsions, despite being the party’s state president.
Sunil and Anand have been Akhilesh’s close associates since the time he was the national president of the party’s youth wing. While Akhilesh fielded Anand Bhadauria from the Dhaurara seat in west UP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Sunil Singh Yadav was accorded the rank of minister as well as chairmanship of one of the corporations. However, Sunil was later removed from the post.
A party source said both were charged with acting against the party’s interests in the recent panchayat polls. “The expulsions have come in the wake of anti-party activities,” said Shivpal Yadav, the chief spokesperson of the party’s state unit.
“Expulsion is the punishment for anti-party activities. Many party members complained to Mulayam that the two had supported other candidates in the recent panchayat polls,” a party activist said.
Akhilesh and his family – wife Dimple Yadav and their children – were expected to attend the opening ceremony of the 17-day annual festival, featuring performances by Pakistani singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, ghazal singer Peenaz Masani and several Bollywood stars. Significantly, the chief minister also skipped the inauguration of the Indian Gramin Cricket League, a rural cricket tournament, on Sunday – granting the responsibility to Badaun MP Dharmendra Yadav instead.
Meanwhile, many youngsters came out in support of the expelled duo on the social media as well as the streets. From Sunday morning, a large number of their supporters began posting images of Sunil posing with Akhilesh, as well as a photograph that showed him bleeding from the head at a party protest during the erstwhile Mayawati regime.
Another minister, Tej Narayan Pandey alias Pawan Pandey, had been sacked two years ago over his alleged high-handedness with an IPS officer, but with Akhilesh’s consent.
The eighteenth edition of the annual Saifai Mahotsava event was declared open by former chief minister and SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav.