New Delhi: The distraction posed by the intra-party feud of the Samajwadi Party (SP), fuelled by a struggle for power between father and son, acquired a new hue on Sunday.
A day after he forced his way back into the party, Akhilesh Yadav was appointed, by the national executive of the SP, as the new chief of the party and Mulayam Singh Yadav kicked upstairs as mentor.
However, later in the day, Mulayam, who had skipped the meeting, termed the rejig in the party hierarchy illegal. Effectively, it is back to square one; only this time Akhilesh, after his big show of strength on Saturday, holds the upper hand.
The development comes just ahead of assembly election—expected to be a tight contest between the SP, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
Analysts believe the family feud is threatening to derail the electoral agenda. It could upstage demonetisation and traditional electoral math based on religion and caste to turn out to be a referendum on Akhilesh.
“This national executive unanimously elects Akhilesh Yadav as the national president of Samajwadi Party,” said Akhilesh loyalist Ram Gopal Yadav, who convened the meeting at Janeshwar Mishra Park in Lucknow. The meeting also proposed sacking Akhilesh’s uncle Shivpal Yadav as state party president and expelling senior leader Amar Singh; Naresh Uttam would be the new SP state unit president.
In solidarity with the CM, senior SP leaders such as Naresh Aggarwal, Kiranmay Nanda, Revati Raman Singh and Ahmed Hasan attended Sunday’s convention.
Mulayam said that the meeting was convened without the permission of the national president and expelled Ram Gopal, Nanda and Aggarwal from the party for six years.
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“The national executive meeting held on 1 January is unconstitutional. It was held without the permission of the party’s national president, thus making all the decisions taken during this meeting invalid,” Mulayam said after the meeting.
He said a list of poll candidates issued earlier by him was still valid and that he will soon announce candidates for the remaining seats. A national convention of SP has been convened by Mulayam on 5 January at the same venue.
Addressing the meeting after being chosen as the new national president, Akhilesh said that he would not be silent if people conspire against the party.
“The whole country should understand that I will respect Netaji (Mulayam Singh) more than ever. However, if people are conspiring against Netaji or the party, it is my duty to act against them,” he said.
The CM also said that his father would “be the happiest” if the SP returned to power in UP, where polls are due in February.
“Some forces do not want SP to come back to power, but we will fight them. The next two months are crucial for us and I thank all of you for not letting down your morale in these tough times,” he said.
Analysts said the developments are shifting focus away from demonetization to the SP and have brought to the fore Akhilesh’s “clean, pro-development image”. “There is a growing public perception that this might just be the grand design of Mulayam to lead Akhilesh on a trajectory to get rid of people who are not letting him function,” said A.K. Verma, professor of political science at Christ Church College, Kanpur.
“Sometimes to protect the ones you love you must make the right decision. What I did today was a tough decision but one that I had to take,” Akhilesh wrote on Twitter, following the decision at the party’s national convention.