The rift within the ruling Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh has veered out of control with Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav stripping his uncle Shivpal Yadav of key ministerial portfolios. In fact, Shivpal is left with ministries of little significance and is likely to resign from the cabinet. The move came on the heels of Mulayam Singh Yadav appointing his brother and senior minister Shivpal Singh Yadav as the state unit chief in place of son Akhilesh.
The chief minister, who has sharp differences with his uncle, responded with alacrity and stripped Shivpal of all key portfolios — PWD, Irrigation, flood control and revenue. The turn of events has put Akhilesh in direct confrontation with his father and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav months before assembly elections in the state.
Interestingly, the chain of events started within hours of Akhilesh shunting out state Chief Secretary Deepak Singhal, who is considered close to Shivpal. Singhal had taken over as Chief Secretary nearly two months ago and superseded five officers. His removal was as sudden as his appointment. Though no reason was cited, Samajwadi Party insiders said the Chief Minister was not happy with Singhal as he had attended a dinner hosted by SP Rajya Sabha member Amar Singh in Delhi which Akhilesh gave a miss. Mulayam and some other top party leaders were present at the dinner. Amar Singh, who has recently returned to the SP's folds, has been siding with Shivpal and attacking Akhilesh.
Disagreements between Akhilesh and Shivpal have been reported on several occasions in the past, including on the merger of Qaumi Ekta Dal with SP. QED is headed by mafia-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari and Shivpal was said to have shepherded the merger. The elevation of Shivpal as party chief is expected to weaken Akhilesh's control over the organization; also henceforth the younger brother of Mulayam will have a greater say in candidate selection in the run up to the UP polls.
“The decision to hand over the charge of the state unit to Shivpal is a clear indication that while Akhilesh will concentrate on governance, Shivpal will prepare the party for the coming Assembly elections…Shivpal has greater political acumen," a senior leader said.
In an image-refurbishing exercise ahead of Assembly elections, Akhilesh had on Monday cracked the whip on two ministers — Mining minister Gayatri Prajapati and Panchayti Raj minister Rajkishore Singh – who are facing corruption charges. While Rajkishore is considered close to Mulayam, Prajapati is reportedly Shivpal's favourite. Last month, Mulayam had backed Shivpal in his tussle with Akhilesh. Addressing SP workers, Mulayam had also said that in case the party splits, many workers will go with Shivpal.