This week's family drama in the Samajwadi Party has a clear winner: chief minister Akhilesh Yadav. "Meri umar kam hai. Courage to naujwan mein hoti hain. Shayad mainay who sahasi faislay le liye," Akhilesh Yadav said yesterday. (I'm a young man, the youth have courage, perhaps I took some courageous decisions.)
This was meant to be explanation of his snatching away Shivapal Yadav's ministerial portfolios, but it sounds more like a declaration of victory. Akhilesh is not saying he was impulsive, not apologising for hurting elders, but declaring his courage. I, too, was hurt, he said.
Akhilesh's chacha, Shivpal Yadav, has been known to be a man who has a grip over the party organization. For such a reputation, the gathering of Shivpal Yadav's supporters at his residence and at the Amausi airport was small. No more than 12 MLAs turned up in his support. This poor show of support put to rest rumours of a split in the party, showed Shivpal Yadav his place, paved way for a truce, and established Akhilesh Yadav's supremacy.
Tuesday, 13 September 2016, will be a memorable day in the history of the Samajwadi Party. The events of the day moved thick and fast. Nobody knew where the palace intrigue would go, but rumours were rife of a split in the party. Many rounds of give and take later, there's a seeming return to status quo ante.
The rift between Shivpal and Akhilesh intensified since December last year. Shivpal sacked two party leaders close to Akhilesh, even though Akhilesh was party president. A sulking Akhilesh refused to attend the Saifai festival, the Yadav family's all-important annual event. A truce was struck: Akhilesh attended Saifai, his aides were re-instated.
Then in June, Shivpal Yadav merged the Mukhtar Ansari-led Qaumi Ekta Dal in the Samajwadi Party, but Akhilesh vetoed it. Mukhtar Ansari's criminal background does not go well with the image Akhilesh is trying to project for himself. Akhilesh sacked minister Balram Yadav for his role in the merger. But again, a truce is struck, the Qaumi Ekta Dal merger doesn't happen, and Balram Yadav is back in the ministry.
Humiliated and sidelined, not allowed to run the party his way, Shivpal Yadav starts openly speaking against his own government. Holding important portfolios in the Akhilesh cabinet, Shivpal threatens to resign. Mulayam Singh Yadav, called Netaji in the party, says the party could split if Shivpal were to leave.
As part of a truce, a bureaucrat close to Shivpal, Deepak Singhal, is made chief secretary. This is Akhilesh's concession to Shivpal to make up for the Qaumi Ekta Dal fiasco.
But Deepak Singhal makes the mistake of attending a party thrown in Delhi by Amar Singh on 11 September. The party was thrown to celebrate Zee TV owner Subhash Chandra's election to the Rajya Sabha. The attendees included Shivpal and Mulayam Singh Yadav, but Akhilesh declined the invitation. After the party, word reached Akhilesh that Singhal allegedly joined the politicians in badmouthing Akhilesh.
On 13 September, the day of Bakrid, Deepak Singhal is sacrificed as UP chief secretary while he is visiting Noida. He had held the post for just two months. A miffed Shivpal managed to get Netaji to sack Akhilesh as party president in return. Akhilesh wasn't even informed about this. Akhilesh replied this move by changing Shivpal's portfolio as minister. Not only was he removed from four lucrative ministries (public works department, revenue, co-operatives and flood control) but also humiliated by being given an relatively insignificant ministry, social welfare.
Even if Shivpal's botched rebellion hurts Akhilesh in the forthcoming election, the chief minister has shown he's boss in the long run, the undisputed inheritor of Mulayam Singh Yadav's legacy.
Akhilesh's secretary went to Raj Bhawan and waited as Governor Ram Naik was doing his puja. The Governor was hurriedly made to sign the notification for a cabinet reshuffle and the release was immediately put out through the Governor's office. Shivpal resigned from all posts in party and government, fuelling speculations of a split.
Akhilesh strikes back
It was clear that Akhilesh wasn't going to take Shivpal's assertiveness lying down. That ensuing events between Tuesday andFriday, may be a short-term setback to Akhilesh Yadav. Five months before the assembly election, such a rift in the party does not bode well for Akhilesh. Shivpal's re-instatement as minister and president of the state unit of the party, may seem like a setback for Akhilesh. It isn't.
The crisis began because of Deepak Singhal's removal as chief secretary. Akhilesh hasn't gone back on that. He has given up the post of party president (UP) but the truce formula worked out by Netaji makes it clear that Akhilesh will have a say in ticket distribution. As Akhilesh and Shivpal together decide the party's 403 candidates, expect a lot of fireworks in the months to come.
Akhilesh Yadav has agreed to take back Shivpal as minister, with all four of his prize portfolios, though Shivpal is hinting he may not take the cabinet posts.
Akhilesh Yadav kept saying there was no rift in the family, it was just an "outsider" who was causing problems. The current crisis began with Amar Singh's party in Delhi. The Akhilesh Yadav camp felt Amar Singh was insitigating and goading Shivpal. In the event of a split, Amar Singh would have been happy to help with the resources necessary to break MLAs away from Akhilesh.
But Shivpal's poor show of strength, with only 12 MLAs coming out to support him, MLAs who know they were not going to get tickets anyway. MLAs and party workers alike chose not to rise in Shivpal's favour because they can see Akhilesh is the future.
Akhilesh Yadav's decision to reinstate Gayatri Prajapati as minister is a concession not to Shivpal but Netaji. Prajapati is close to Netaji. He was sacked from his post of mining minister after the Allahabad High Court ordered a CBI inquiry into illegal mining. Prajapati will now be given another ministry.
When Akhilesh Yadav became Uttar Pradesh's youngest chief minister, it used to be said the state has four and a half CMs. The four CMs were Netaji, Shivpal, Ram Gopal Yadav and Azam Khan. Akhilesh was half a CM.
But over the years, Akhilesh united with Ram Gopal against Azam Khan and Amar Singh, and limited his influence to Noida and Ghaziabad. Ram Gopal is the party's national general secretary. Thus Akhilesh sidelined Azam Khan, and despite Amar Singh's recent re-entry into the party on Netaji's behest, Akhilesh refuses to have anything to do with Singh.
The only thorn left was chacha Shivpal, whose poor attempt at a midnight coup has been foiled. Netaji says he won't let the party split as long as he is alive – but after that, Shivpal's exit is a certainty.
Over the past year, Akhilesh has carefully crafted his image before voters as a young man with new ideas whose trying to do good governance, but the old guard isn't letting him succeed. The events of this week only bolster that image. Even if Shivpal's botched rebellion hurts Akhilesh in the forthcoming election, the chief minister has shown he's boss in the long run, the undisputed inheritor of Mulayam Singh Yadav's legacy.
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