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Akhilesh ready for showdown with Mulayam

December 31, 2016 09:53 IST

'Akhileshji has to protect his political turf and if it means confronting his father, snapping ties with him and forming another party, so be it.'
Radhika Ramaseshan reports.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav during a Samajwadi Party rally.Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on Friday expelled his son and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav as well as General Secretary Ram Gopal Yadav from the party for six years for 'gross indiscipline,' a decision that will lead to a political crisis in Uttar Pradesh.

Making the announcement at a press conference in Lucknow, Mulayam said the new chief minister will be chosen by the Samajwadi Party.

Flanked by brother Shivpal Yadav, who has been at loggerheads with the chief minister, Mulayam said he had taken the action against Akhilesh and Ram Gopal to save the party which he had built through strong efforts.

Earlier, Akhilesh had rejected a 'compromise formula' proposed by Mulayam at their meeting on Thursday to try and cap a fresh bout of family jousting before the state assembly election.

Egged on by 'loyalists' and supporters advocating a "fight to the finish," Akhilesh reportedly also told Mulayam he must be unambiguously named the party's CM candidate.

On Wednesday, the father had said his party 'traditionally' had never anointed a leader before an election.

While senior party leaders like Kiranmoy Nanda and Naresh Agarwal were trying to prevail on Mulayam to take back his decision, a source close to Akhilesh said there was no question of the son reconsidering his decision even if Mulayam were to retract the expulsion.

The Akhilesh group is to pursue the line that the episode has exposed those elements in the party -- including Amar Singh, Shivpal and Mulayam himself -- who for reasons best known to them were taking orders from the Bharatiya Janata Party, what is a repeat of the way the BJP had engineered infighting in the Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal-United in the run-up to the Bihar assembly elections in November 2015 by engineering a revolt by Jitan Ram Manjhi.

Akhilesh, Ram Gopal said, will be declared the national president of the SP at a meeting of its legislators on Saturday.

The Akhilesh group will also approach the Election Commission to have a freeze on rhe SP's election symbol (a bicycle), and would try to get the mashaal (torch) symbol to fight the UP elections.

The mashaal symbol had belonged to the Samata Party, founded by George Fernandes and Nitish Kumar in 1994, in Bihar.

While BJP Lok Sabha member Adityanath called for President's Rule in Uttar Pradesh, government sources in New Delhi said the Centre was "watching" the developments in Lucknow.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee assured her support to Akhilesh, while the Congress is also in touch with the UP chief minister.

A possible Akhilesh-led SP, Congress and Ajit Singh's Rashtriya Lok Dal alliance for the polls is also being talked about.

On Thursday evening, Mulayam served a show cause notice to Akhilesh, asking him to explain why he had issued his own list of candidates, a day after the father had announced an official list of 325 candidates.

Akhilesh's principal backer Ram Gopal Yadav retaliated by calling a meeting of party workers in Lucknow on Sunday, ostensibly to demonstrate Akhilesh’s "strength."

This cycle of events could lead to a split in the SP that Mulayam had founded in October 1992.

The latest developments were triggered by Mulayam's unwillingness to project Akhilesh as the CM face of the party in the coming poll, insinuations that daughter-in-law Aparna Yadav, named as candidate from a Lucknow seat, was also a contender for the top job, and dissensions over candidate selection.

Mulayam gave an impression to his party that he was part of the alliance forged between his wife and Aparna's mother-in-law Sadhana Gupta (She is not Akhilesh's mother; he's a son from Mulayama's first wife), his brother and Akhilesh's adversary, Shivpal Yadav, and Amar Singh, his former confidant who is trying to stage a comeback in the family's reckoning.

"Earlier, Netaji (as Mulayam is known in his party) came across as neutral. This time, this is not the case," a party official said.

Mulayam’s 'formula' consisted of identifying the candidates for the assembly election whose names had figured both on the lists released by him and Akhilesh after the latter rebelled against the exclusion of ministers and legislators perceived as close to him, retaining the common nominees, and seeking a place for those discarded by him and his son.

It is reliably learnt from Samajwadi Party sources that Akhilesh was firm on keeping Aparna Yadav out after he "gathered" that Mulayam and wife Sadhana Gupta considered projecting her as the CM.

Aparna is married to Prateek, Mulayam and Sadhana's son.

She was named as a candidate from Lucknow Cantonment in the first list of candidates, issued in October.

Akhilesh also wanted Atiq Ahmed and Amanmani Tripathi, who came with criminal antecedents, out of the list, saying their presence buttressed the notion that the SP 'patronised goondas.'

Mulayam said of the ministers and legislators he had junked for allegedly being 'close' to Akhilesh, he could re-nominate three of the 53 rejects.

"What sort of a resolution is this?" asked an aide of Akhilesh.

Asked if a split was irrevocable, the aide quoted Ram Gopal, who on Thursday alleged 'some elements in the party were out to prevent Akhilesh from becoming the CM again and, therefore, they must be fought.'

Ram Gopal, expelled for overtly siding with Akhilesh in the first round of the family conflict, was then reinstated, but relegated to the margins of decision-making. He is Mulayam's cousin.

Party sources said "sensing" that Akhilesh, his nephew, was spoiling for a fight to retain his turf in the shifting Samajwadi Party terrain, Ram Gopal resurfaced and openly declared allegiance with Akhilesh.

Opinion in the party was unclear on whether Akhilesh could salvage his standing if he broke away from his father.

Uttar Pradesh, historically, places a premium on family bonds and never challenges dynasty-based politics.

A member of Akhilesh's core team, in the legislative council, argued that in politics, familial ties were never sacrosanct.

"Politics is about politics and not about one's father or mother. Mulayam Singhji is equally neta to me and Akhileshji. He is his father only within their home. Akhileshji has to protect his political turf and if it means confronting his father, snapping ties with him and forming another party, so be it."

Radhika Ramseshan