POLITICS

Shivpal Yadav Quits Akhilesh's Cabinet, Resigns As Party President

Escalating tensions between nephew and uncle turned ugly, this week.

16/09/2016 1:02 AM IST | Updated 16/09/2016 3:39 AM IST
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NEW DELHI -- Just two days after he was appointed as president of the Samajwadi Party, Shivpal Yadav, the younger brother of Mulayam Singh Yadav, quit the post on Thursday, and resigned from the cabinet of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, his nephew.

"Let the chief minister run the government. I am not interested in it any more," he told The Times of India. "This is enough. I don't want to reveal my pain to netaji." Akhilesh reportedly said: "Aap chacha hain. Sab le lijiye (you are my uncle, take everything).

Escalating tensions between nephew and uncle turned ugly, this week, with Mulayam appointing Shivpal as the head of the party in Uttar Pradesh, a post which Akhilesh held since the summer of 2009. The 43-year-old chief minister then stripped his 61-year-old uncle of all key portfolios in the state cabinet.

Shivpal's resignation, which came shortly after a meeting between Mulayam and his son in Lucknow on Thursday evening, suggests that the 71-year-old party chief was unable to broker peace within his family. Shivpal had met with Mulayam twice since Tuesday, and he also met with Akhilesh on Thursday.

As the high drama continued late into Monday night, Akhilesh rejected his uncle's resignation, ANI reported, just as party workers started gathering outside Shivpal's residence to express their support. "I'm with you," he said. A parliamentary board meeting has been scheduled for Friday to help resolve the dispute.

While feuds within political families aren't exactly a novelty in Indian politics, this one comes ahead of a crucial assembly election in the country's most populous state, scheduled for early next year. Ideally, the party strategy would have been to project Akhilesh as the modern face of the SP, while allowing Shivpal to drive the campaign on the ground, but this fighting could mar the party's image and divide the loyalties of party workers. On the other hand, it could also help Akhilesh kick the "puppet" tag, which still plagues him, and help him emerge from the shadows of the old guard.

Since the feud erupted on Tuesday, Akhilesh has sent out mixed messages on just how far his father's wishes prevail in absolute terms. While stating that everyone had to abide by netaji, he added that there are some decision which he had to take on his own.

In June, Akhilesh had thrown a spanner in the works, when it came to a merger between his party and the gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari's Quami Ekta Dal, which was crafted by his uncle. This month, Yadav sacked two of his ministers Gayatri Prasad Prajapati and Raj Kishore Singh over corruption charges.

While Akhilesh has tried to cast all this as a political dispute and not a family feud, his second uncle Ram Gopal Yadav has made statements to the contrary, even criticizing Mulayam for removing his son as party president. "Mulayam Singh Yadav was very upset and angry when he ordered me to remove Akhilesh from the party post," he told TOI. "If anyone is humiliated like this, he is bound to react and in retaliation Shivpal portfolios were withdrawn."

Speaking to the press on Tuesday, Akhilesh also blamed "interference" from an outsider for the current troubles, leading to speculation that this person could be Rajya Sabha lawmaker Amar Singh, who recently returned to the party after six years. Singh, an old associate of Mulayam, who is close to Shivpal, has denied any interference on his part.

Meanwhile, Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati has characterized the family feud, and the recent sacking of two ministers by Akhilesh for alleged corruption, as a clever ruse to project a clean-corruption free image as the state polls draw closer. Congress Party Vice President Rahul Gandhi said that Akhilesh was finally getting rid of the damaged tyres in his cycle (the SP symbol), but that he had left it too late.

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