Lucknow: The cold war in Uttar Pradesh’s ruling Yadav clan is now in the open. Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, who had been taking it lying down for four-and-a-half years, has finally mustered up courage to rise to the occasion and tell his overbearing chacha Shivpal Yadav that enough is enough.
Ever since he anointed his son Akhilesh as the CM and thus political heir in 2012, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav has been balancing the demands of his brother Shivpal Yadav.
Akhilesh had been bearing repeated public reprimands from his father silently all this while and could not assert himself even where it was required. Others, including chacha Shivplal, younger brother of Mulayam Singh Yadav, took advantage of the situation and continued to treat the chief minister like a family youngster. Political circles began to call UP a state with “five and a half chief minsters” of which Akhilesh was described as the “half”.
Akhilesh displayed the first signs of assertion barely two months back when he shot down Shivpal Yadav’s plan for merger of mafia don-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari’s Qaumi Ekta Dal (QED) with the Samajwadi Party. Having had an earlier showdown with his chacha when he tried but could not prevent the re-entry of Amar Singh in the party, Akhilesh made sure that he did not have to suffer another humiliation. He ensured that the merger with Mukhtar’s party did not happen, arguing that any such action would only give a bad name to the SP at a time when the state was heading for the next poll in March 2017.
Shivpal hit back shortly thereafter by getting his man Friday, Deepak Singhal, on the chief secretary’s chair, despite stiff opposition from Akhilesh, who did not approve of the 1982 batch IAS officer because of his allegedly questionable past. Akhilesh’s insistence that Singhal’s induction to the top job would tarnish the image of his government fell on deaf ears as father Mulayam preferred to oblige younger brother Shivpal.
It took Akhilesh two months to muster up courage and surprise all and sundry by giving marching orders to Singhal, who had already caused him much embarrassment in various ways.
What gave him the strength to rise from his docility was the high court order that turned down the government’s plea for withdrawal of a CBI probe against his highly tainted mining minister Gayatri Prasad Prajapati, who enjoyed close proximity to both Mulayam and Shivpal. All along, Akhilesh had found himself helpless against the minister, under whose watch illegal mining was touching new heights. Barely 48 hours after the court rejected the government’s plea to withdraw the CBI probe against Prajapati, Akhilesh cracked the whip on him and ordered his ouster from the cabinet.
According to informed sources, Akhilesh made it a point to take his father into confidence and he also convinced him on the necessity to sack Prajapati to avert heat from the CBI falling on any member of the ruling Yadav clan.
While Mulayam was convinced about the action against Prajapati, the firing of Singhal was viewed by him as some kind of defiance by the son. After all, Singhal’s appointment was made at the behest of not just Shivpal but also Amar Singh and above all Mulayam himself as also his (Mulayam’s) blue-eyed principal secretary to chief minister Anita Singh, with whom, too, Akhilesh could never get along.
This powerful lobby managed to easily provoke Mulayam into divesting Akhilesh of the position of state Samajwadi Party chief and entrusting the post to Shivpal. Akhilesh retaliated by stripping Shivpal of the key portfolios of public works, revenue and irrigation – considered as ‘goldmines’ of the government. Instead, Shivpal was given the far less lucrative social welfare ministry.
Clearly the knives were out as such a drastic step was the last thing the chacha could have imagined in his wildest of dreams from the nephew.
Mulayam continued to keep himself perched in Delhi and Shivpal joined him Wednesday afternoon . Even as the war between chacha and nephew was on, both were particular about not making a single utterance directly against each other. Yet much could be easily read between the lines.
“I take certain decisions while Netaji (Mulayam) takes other important decisions but interference by some outsiders had led to problems” Akhilesh told mediapersons in Lucknow. Shivpal, on the other hand went about harping on just one thing – “no one in the party has the authority to override whatever Netaji decides to do; and I will abide by whatever he tells me to do”, thereby ,making it loud and clear that the buck stops only with Mulayam.
Sure enough, he is not content with the state party chief’s position he has usurped from Akhilesh; he wants more. If insiders are to be believed, Shivpal is not ready to settle for anything less than restoration of the multiple portfolios as also reinstatement of Deepak Singhal – a deal that would leave Akhilesh completely high and dry.
The ball is in Mulayam’s court and all eyes are now on the ailing septuagenarian and veteran of many battles on how he pulls off another political balancing act.