(From L to R) Senior SP leader Shivpal Singh Yadav, SP Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.
As the rifts widens in the first family of Uttar Pradesh with each passing day, Samajwadi Party seems to be either heading for a split or face the danger of campaigning for the upcoming Assembly elections in early 2017 with depleted strength and low morale among party workers.
With allegations, counter-allegations multiplying everyday, the chacha-bhatija fight between Akhilesh Yadav and Shivpal Singh Yadav is wide open and is likely to intensify during the campaign by the two camps. The latest entrant to the controversy is Mulayam's second wife and Akhilesh's step-mother. SP legislator Udayveer Singh accused Mulayam's second wife of being part of the conspiracy against Akhilesh and said the party patriarch needed to make way for his son.
According to a report in the Times of India, Udayveer sent a letter to Mulayam which read: "As this information came out in the open that you want Akhilesh to become the CM, conspiracies were hatched within the family. Though Akhilesh's step-mother herself remained behind the scenes, Shivpal came forward as her political face and started contacting senior party leaders to prevent this."
The party is divided into two camps -- Akhilesh and Shivpal. Akhilesh reportedly enjoys the support of the youth and there will be a show of strength on November 3 with his rath yatra. With the announcement, there is a speculation that he is likely to give party's high profile silver jubilee celebrations, that would begin on November 5, a miss.
In a letter to Mulayam, Akhilesh said, "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."
Already unhappy with expulsion of some young leaders, among them MLCs, any attempt to scuttle his rath yatra will escalate the crisis within the party.
Shivpal, who is a strong mass leader for the SP, had his way and was made the Uttar Pradesh party chief having a major say in the ticket distribution. On the other hand, Akhilesh is adamant on having his say in the ticket distribution for the upcoming polls as well.
While the Yadav vote would remain intact, youth and Muslim votes are likely to be divided if the party splits.
But if the party manages to come as a united front again, there are chances of retaining the youth vote. But it remains to be seen who the BJP projects as its chief ministerial nominee. And if Akhilesh goes alone, then he might not get the desired youth vote as development work has not turned the way it was expected.
How the drama unfolded?
The drama unfolded in July with Akhilesh defying Mulayam and Shivpal to prevent the merger with Quami Ekta Dal. He recently approved the merger.
In August, Shivpal had threatened to quit from SP in view of lawlessness and rise in land grab cases in the state. After this, Mulayam attacked Akhilesh and said that ministers in the state were corrupt and a burden on the state.
In an attempt to cleanse his government, Akhilesh had in September sacked two important ministers facing graft charges. Both Gayatri Prasad Prajapati and Raj Kishor Singh were considered close to Mulayam.
Akhilesh also removed his two-month-old state secretary Deepak Singhal, who was considered close to Shivpal. Singhal was replaced by with IAS officer Rahul Prasad Bhatnagar.
After series of closed-door meetings, Mulayam in-turn replaced Akhilesh by Shivpal as the SP state unit chief. In return, Akhilesh stripped Shivpal of all important ministries.
But this was just the beginning of the major crisis in the Yadav clan. Shivpal resigned from all posts in the party as well as the state government.
In a show of strength, Shivpal’s supporters undertook protests in UP demanding equal status for their leader in the party vis-a-vis Akhilesh.
After being appointed as the state party chief, Shivpal suspended some youth leaders of the party. The youth leaders were considered close to Akhilesh.