In the very public power tussle that rocked the Samajwadi Party (SP) just three weeks ago, Ram Gopal Yadav, the leader of the party in the Rajya Sabha, was expelled from the party by Shivpal Singh Yadav, the SP state president. It was assumed that Amar Singh, who party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav had reposed his faith in, would become SP's face in New Delhi.
Mulayam Singh, Shivpal Singh and Ram Gopal are siblings, and Akhilesh Yadav, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh is Mulayam Singh's son. The party feud then was also a family power struggle ahead of the 2017 UP Assembly elections, which saw uncle Shivpal and nephew Akhilesh arrayed against each other, and uncle Ram Gopal allied with Akhilesh. Party chief Mulayam Singh also appeared displeased with his son and publicly berated him.
However, yesterday, when Ram Gopal Yadav spoke in the Rajya Sabha on the first day of the Winter Session of Parliament, slamming the Narendra Modi government over demonetisation, it became clear that he was not about to be replaced by Amar Singh.
Some wondered how he was still representing SP as the floor leader, three weeks after his expulsion from the party. They had their answer when he was formally reinstated as a SP member later in the day Ram Gopal had been expelled by Shivpal over allegations of being too close to the BJP and conspiring against his own party. His reinstatement was seen by many as a win for Akhilesh and also a tactic to save face and present a united front ahead of the Assembly polls.
A United Facade
Ram Gopal is among the more powerful and well-connected SP leaders. Not only is he the face of the party in the Rajya Sabha, he is also said to hold clout in the corridors of power in Delhi.
As pointed out in this Indian Express report, though Ram Gopal is not a mass leader, he heads a team of 19 MPs in the Rajya Sabha, which is the third largest after the Congress and the BJP.
Also, SP has been forced to project a united front because feuding factions would have divided votes. Professor Badri Narayan of Jawaharlal Nehru University says in the Hindustan Times, "The Yadav votes are expected to get fragmented between the two SP factions, and non-Yadav OBCs could drift towards the BJP. Many Yadavs are Brahminised nowadays, they could align with the BJP." He also said that Muslims could gravitate towards the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) if they feel that a fragmented SP would not be able to keep the BJP at bay.
In the face of the bitter standoff between Akhilesh and Mulayam last month, there was speculation that the chief minister might break away and float another party. That would have been disastrous for SP's chances in the Assembly elections, as Akhilesh is considered to be popular among the urban voters.
However on Friday, while speaking to the media on demonetisation, Ram Gopal presented the picture of a united SP, saying that everyone in the party was behind the 'cycle,' the party symbol.
But Ram Gopal's reinstatement notwithstanding, there is no hiding the instability in SP. A party leader told the Indian Express, "They take actions in their personal capacity during the day, but change their position after meeting each other in the evening."
Win For The Akhilesh Faction
In the thick of the feud last month, Akhilesh had blamed Amar Singh for the conflict. Members of the Samajwadi Yuvajan Sabha, the party's youth wing, had burnt effigies of Amar Singh in Mathura, and proclaimed their allegiance to the chief minister.
Samajwadi Yuvajan Sabha district chief, Sahoon Khan Rawat had told PTI, "We will work unitedly for the victory of Samajwadi Party in the forthcoming Assembly elections to ensure repeat of Akhilesh Yadav as Chief Minister."
Because of their closeness to both Ram Gopal and Akhilesh, many youth leaders had been expelled by Shivpal Yadav. The Times of India reports that now, just as Mulayam Singh has brought back Ram Gopal Yadav into the fold, he will reinstate the expelled youth leaders too.
The report suggests that MLCs Sunil Singh Sajan, Anand Bhadauria, Sanjay Lathar, Udayveer Singh; state chief of SP youth brigade Mohammad Ebad; state president of SP Yuvjan Sabha Brijesh Yadav; national president of SP youth brigade Gaurav Dubey and state chief of Chatra Sabha Digvijay Singh Dev could all return to the party if they tender an apology.
Also in HuffPost India: