Was ‘PariWar’ Mulayam’s bid to put son Akhilesh at party’s helm?. indiabusinessport.com

NEW DELHI: Some called it a battle for supremacy within the SP. Some pointed fingers at Akhilesh Yadav for “dethroning” Mulayam to take control of the party. And some blamed Mulayam for his unwillingness to let go of the reins of a party he had founded and nurtured. When a bitter feud within the SP’s first family broke out in the run-up to the 2017 polls, it was interpreted in many ways. But now, after six years, many feel it was Mulayam’s way of putting his son Akhilesh firmly in the saddle. “The art of deception, or charkha daav, that he used in the past to floor the likes of Sonia Gandhi and Ajit Singh, he applied against his brother Shivpal Yadav and protege Amar Singh this time,” said a political analyst.
Fissures within the SP began to show in December 2015 when Shivpal Yadav, as a senior party member and minister, expelled three close associates of Akhilesh for antiparty activity. Akhilesh made his displeasure clear by skipping the inaugural function of the Saifai Mahotsav. But what brought the fight out in the open was Shivpal’s decision to merge Qaumi Ekta Dal (QED) – the party of jailed gangster Mukhtar Ansari’s brother Afzal Ansari – with SP in Akhilesh’s absence. Akhilesh had repeatedly said SP would not side with people who had criminal cases against them.

Akhilesh responded by sacking minister Balram Yadav from the Cabinet for his role in the merger. After that, the two sides attacked each other virtually every day. When Akhilesh sacked Shivpal and Gayatri Prajapati from his Cabinet, Mulayam expelled Akhilesh from the party and appointed Shivpal as the state president. Shivpal was reinstated in the government, too, but with lightweight portfolios. Akhilesh then held a special session of the party on January 1, 2017 where he was declared the national president, dethroning his father.

Thereafter, Akhilesh petitioned the Election Commission for allotment of the party’s election symbol – bicycle – for the polls. Two days before the EC hearing, Mulayam announced he won’t let the party split. Addressing party workers in Lucknow, he announced he would neither float a new party nor change the symbol. “All I want is unity,” he said.

Two days later, Mulayam was in Delhi, supposedly to appear before the EC along with Amar Singh, who was till then seen as the architect of the split, at least by Akhilesh. However, Mulayam left everyone surprised when he appeared at the EC headquarters alone. Later, the EC allotted the symbol to Akhilesh.
What also worked in Akhilesh’s favour was the fact that it all happened when he was UP chief minister and had the government machinery at his disposal. This was enough to ensure the majority of the party MLAs, senior leaders and workers stayed with him.

Many senior leaders like Rajendra Chaudhary, Ram Govind Chaudhary, Mata Prasad Pandey, Kiranmoy Nanda, Ram Gopal Yadav and, above all, party veteran Azam Khan – who were diehard Mulayam loyalists – sided with Akhilesh. Some of the leaders tried to work out a truce between Mulayam and Akhilesh but went with the latter when the efforts failed. Most of them attended the party’s special session that was convened at Janeshwar Mishra park in Lucknow on January 1, 2017 to declare Akhilesh as the new party president, replacing Mulayam. Sources said quite a few of these leaders, who knew Mulayam well, were convinced that their siding with Akhilesh would not be seen as betrayal by Mulayam.
During the entire family feud, there were very few occasions when Mulayam softened his stance towards Akhilesh. After SP was wiped out by the BJP in the Assembly elections, Mulayam publicly accused Akhilesh of insulting him, stating that it sent a wrong signal to the SP voters, which eventually resulted in the party’s defeat.
“He had publicly reprimanded Akhilesh on several occasions in the past and, in the beginning of the family feud, appeared to be working in favour of Shivpal, but when it came to a decisive push, he tilted towards Akhilesh,” said an SP old-timer.
Political observers feel that though the war within the Yadav clan started as real, the astute politician that he was, Mulayam possibly made the best of the situation to settle the issue of succession in favour of his son.

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