Sunday, October 23, 2016

SP split wide open: Akhilesh sacks Shivpal, Mulayam removes Ramgopal Yadav

Pankaj Jaiswal and M Tariq Khan, Hindustan Times,


Updated: Oct 23, 2016 22:41 IST

A split in the ruling Samajwadi Party looked inevitable after a fresh round of tit-for-tat sackings on Sunday pitted chief minister Akhilesh Yadav against his father and party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh.
In the morning, Akhilesh threw out his uncle Shivpal Yadav, who is also the party’s state chief, and three other “pro-Amar Singh” ministers from his team. By evening, Mulayam had dismissed his cousin and SP general secretary Ramgopal Yadav, who has backed Akhilesh in the family feud, from the party for six years.
The sackings indicate hardening of stand on both sides and couldn’t have come at a worse time. A resurgent opposition, anti-incumbency and worries over law and order situation – the party already had a battle on its hands. A power struggle in the Yadav clan was the last thing it needed.
Questions were also being raised about the state government, with the BJP, which is looking to topple the SP in the next year’s election, calling for a floor test.
If things come to a head, Mulayam, who is said to be angry and called an emergency meeting of senior party leaders in the evening, could name himself or Shivpal as the chief minister, sources said.
Monday could be another dramatic day. Mulayam has called a meeting of party MPs, MLAs and MLCs, where some “tough decisions” could be taken.
The first salvo on Sunday was fired by Akhilesh who met his ministers and party legislators at his residence. Amar Singh was damaging the party and those close to him couldn’t be part of his team, Akhilesh told the gathering.
“…whosoever goes with him (Amar Singh), goes out of the party,” legislator Vijay Mishra, quoted Akhilesh as saying. The CM said he had “no intention of splitting the party”. “I am Netaji’s son. I will always be with him.”
Without naming anyone, the CM said he was sacking four ministers. Ahead of the meeting, Akhilesh had conveyed to governor Ram Naik his decision to boot out cabinet ministers Shivpal, Narad Rai and Om Prakash Singh and minister of state Shadab Fatima.
Part of the SP crisis is attributed to Akhilesh’s sour ties with Amar Singh, a close aide of his father who returned to the party recently and was nominated to the Rajya Sabha.
The CM also removed actor-turned-politician Jaya Prada, known to be close to Singh, from the Uttar Pradesh film development council.
This is the second time in a month that Akhilesh had acted against Shivpal. He stripped Shivpal of his portfolios but gave them back after Mulayam managed an uneasy truce between his feuding son and brother.
But, the peace plan now seems to be in tatters.
Armed with a Mulayam order, Shivpal announced Ramgopal’s sacking at a press conference after he accused the senior party leader, without naming him, of colluding with the BJP and meeting its leaders thrice.
“Ramgopal is doing this to save his son in the Yadav Singh scam and the CM (is) not realising as to who his real well-wisher is. Ramgopal has always conspired and misled Akhilesh,” Shivpal said, referring to a tainted chief engineer of Noida authority, charge denied by Ramgopal.
Like in 2012, the next year’s elections, too, would be fought under Mulayam, Shivpal said, going back on his last week’s announcement of Akhilesh being the party’s CM face.
Before Akhilesh ordered the sackings, Ramgopal, the party’s chief strategist, attacked the Shivpal camp through an open letter.
“We want that chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s leadership see the next government in UP; they want he loses come what may,” said Ramgopal, who is in Mumbai.
He reaffirmed support for Akhilesh after his ouster.
“Netaji is surrounded by demonic powers...In the ongoing crusade (dharm-yudh), I am with Akhilesh Yadav,” he said, urging the CM’s supporters to fight without fear.