In yet another sign of worsening infighting in Samajwadi Party, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on Wednesday announced that he will embark on his 'Vikas Rath Yatra' alone from November 3 which will make him skip the party's silver jubilee celebrations slated to begin two days later.
In a letter to his father and party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, the chief minister declared his intention to commence his yatra, which was put off last month after the open turf war with his uncle Shivpal Yadav, saying all political parties have already started their campaign for the assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh.
"I had decided to take out the yatra from October 3 but it was cancelled due to some reasons. I will take out the 'Samajwadi Vikas Rath Yatra' from November 3," Akhilesh wrote.
The announcement gave rise to speculation that Akhilesh might skip SP's sliver jubilee celebrations that begin on November 5 to send a message that he was unhappy over the expulsion of youth leaders from the party, who would not be present at the event.
Apart from reaching out to people and galvanising party workers, Akhilesh's yatra is seen as a move to truncate the influence of Shivpal, who had been appointed the new state party president in his place.
Akhilesh has also sent copies of the letter to state party chief Shivpal Yadav and National General Secretary Ram Gopal Yadav. He said yatra's detailed programme will be communicated to district presidents and party workers in due course.
Earlier in the day, Akhilesh, Shivpal Yadav, and Mulayam held a closed-door meeting at party supremo's 5 Vikramaditya Marg residence to discuss poll strategy.
According to party sources, Akhilesh is adamant on his demands of revoking the expulsion of youth leaders, some of whom are MLCs, and having his say in the ticket distribution.
Akhilesh had earlier announced his decision to take out the yatra from October 3 through his twitter handle with a picture in which he was seen sitting inside a bus.
He had last month hit back over his removal from the party post by stripping Shivpal of his key ministerial portfolios but had to retreat as Mulayam stepped in.
The infighting continues unabated with Mulayam siding with Shivpal and his cousin Ram Gopal throwing his weight behind the the chief minister. The distribution of tickets and whether Akhilesh should be projected as CM candidate remain a bone of contention.
One of Shivpal's first acts as state party chief was sacking Ram Gopal's nephew and party MLC Arvind Pratap Yadav, and a former village head in Etawah Akhilesh Kumar Yadav for their alleged involvement in land- grabbing and other such activities.
Recently, Shivpal announced the first list of the party's candidates for the assembly elections without even consulting either the chief minister or Ram Gopal. The SP chief's reluctance to categorically back Akhilesh as the party's CM candidate as added fuel to fire which threatens to mar the ruling party's prospects.
The pro-chief minister camp fears that all this is a part of a systematic attempt to undermine him and deny him a say in the party.
Ram Gopal, who has sided with the CM, shot off an angry letter to Mulayam, urging him to intervene and get Shivpal to take back the expelled leaders and to ensure that the CM had a decisive say in ticket distribution.
After Wednesday's meeting between the SP chief and Ram Gopal, there was no indication that the stand-off had been resolved.
Meanwhile, Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, Delhi Maulana Syed Ahmad Bukhari on Wednesday met Akhilesh, Mulayam and Shivpal to discuss a possible patch-up.
Photograph: PTI Photo