After stripping uncle of key ministries, Akhilesh cancels all programmes as tension widens in SP

The Samajwadi Party on Tuesday removed UP CM Akhilesh Yadav as State president and appointed his uncle and Cabinet Minister Shivpal Singh Yadav in his place.

Amid an open war within the ruling Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh and conflict with his uncle, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on Wednesday “cancelled” all official programmes for the day. He had two events slated for the day—one at the Hindi Sansthan and the other at his official residence.

Mr. Yadav, who was on Tuesday evening abruptly removed of his post as SP State president, to be replaced by his uncle and often considered bête noire Shivpal Singh Yadav, had retaliated by him of three key ministerial berths, including the prestigious PWD ministry. The CM now has control of the PWD ministry.

As the hightened tensions within the SP threatens to boil into a much larger crisis, party supremo Mulayam Singh is faced with the task of restoring order within the party and family, and appeasing both his son and younger brother. The fiasco has potential to unsettle the SP’s campaign in 2017.

Downsized by his nephew, Shivpal is said to be sulking and on Wednesday morning hundreds of his anxious supporters reached his residence in Saifai, the ancestral village of the Yadavs in Etawah district. The SP supremo is said to have telephoned his brother and Mr. Shivpal is now flying to Delhi to meet the party boss. Mulayam’s cousin and SP MP Ramgopal Yadav is too scheduled to attend the crisis-resolve meeting in Delhi. There are speculations that Shivpal has submitted his resignation to the party supremo. However, that could not be confirmed. Speaking to a news channel in Saifai, Mr. Shivpal Singh expressed his faith in “Netaji,” as Mulayam is fondly referred to by his supporters and kin. “I believe in Netaji and the people. No one can disobey Netaji,” Mr. Shivpal said. He said he would decide his future course of action after meeting Mulayam.

Internal rifts within the Samajwadi Party came out im the open on Tuesday evening after the party removed Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav as its State president, appointing his uncle and cabinet minister Shivpal Singh Yadav in his place. Shivpal Yadav was already the SP’s 2017 election in-charge, thus his elevation further boosts his stature in party organization and decision making and candidate selection for the polls. However, in a retaliatory blow, Akhilesh Yadav on Tuesday evening stripped his uncle of key ministries. .

The fresh development is considered the breaking point of the tension between the two leaders in recent months over several political decisions.

The announcement to remove Akhilesh Yadav as State president, signed by party supremo Mulayam Singh, came on a day when the CM had sacked the State chief secretary Deepak Singhal, who was considered close to Mr. Shivpal Yadav. On Monday, the CM had also sacked two key ministers, including the controversial mining minister Gayatri Prasad Prajapati, embroiled in corruption charges. The ministers were considered part of Mulayam’s team.

The replacement of Mr. Singhal with another IAS officer Rahul Bhatnagar as chief secretary brought to forefront the internal battles within the ruling SP.

If Mr. Bhatnagar, formerly principal secretary finance, is said to be in the good books of the CM, Mr. Singhal was considered close to his uncle. Mr. Singhal was earlier principal secretary (irrigation), under Shivpal Singh Yadav, who saw it as a direct attack on him.

SP leaders are quiet over the developments. Though he confirmed the changes at the top, SP spokesperson and cabinet minister Rajendra Chaudhary evaded questions on the reasons behind the fallout.

Hours after the change at the top of the SP, Governor Ram Naik late on Tuesday night sanctioned a curious reshuffle in the State cabinet as Shivpal Yadav was stripped of the significant PWD, revenue and cooperative departments and allotted the relatively low-profile social welfare ministry instead. The decision was taken on recommendations of the CM, who now has taken control over the lucrative PWD berth, a Raj Bhawan spokesperson confirmed.

The CM also gave additional charge of revenue (land) and cooperative department to secondary education minister Balram Yadav, who was recently sacked and then reinstated for his role in the merger of QED with SP.

The uncle-nephew duo have often not agreed on many political decisions, most recently the merger of the Quami Ekta Dal with the SP. If Shivpal was the focal point of the merger, Akhilesh Yadav forced the revocation of the decision as merger of tainted leader Mukhtar Ansari’s party would hurt his image ahead of the crucial polls.

Last year, Shivpal even affected the expulsion — later revoked — of three top youth aides of Akhilesh Yadav, leading the CM to cancel his visit to the inaugural ceremony of the Saifai Mahotsav in Etawah.

The rivalry between the uncle and nephew is an open secret in the power galleries of Lucknow and Mr. Shivpal Singh is often blamed by opposition parties for his interventionism. The BJP often describes him as being one of the “four-and-a-half CMs” in the State.

The cracks within the SP resurfaced recently after Shivpal while expressing concern over cases of land-grabbing by his party workers and musclemen within the party, said he would not allow common people to be harassed even if it required him to resign. Alarmed by the statement, the SP supremo in his Independence Day speech caused a flutter after he came to his brother’s defence and said that a few people were against him. If his brother resigned, the SP would split, the party chief asserted, in what is believed to be a warning to his son. The uncle-nephew duo then held a meeting together to put up a show of unity on Mulayam’s directive. However, there is no end to the internal squabbles within the Yadav clan.

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