Lucknow: The Samajwadi Party’s first family is showing signs of reconciliation, with the party withdrawing its petition for the disqualification of Shivpal Singh Yadav as an MLA.
Uttar Pradesh Assembly Speaker Hriday Narayan Dikshit Thursday allowed the party to withdraw the petition it had filed on 4 September last year, on the grounds that it had not attached any documents or evidence with the plea.
“SP leader Ram Govind Chaudhary presented a petition and now wanted it to be withdrawn on some crucial grounds. So I am allowing them to do so,” Dikshit said.
Shivpal is the brother of Samajwadi Party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav, and uncle to current party chief Akhilesh Yadav. He was elected from the Jaswantnagar assembly constituency in 2017, but later formed a new party, Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia). He contested the 2019 Lok Sabha election on this party’s symbol from the Firozabad seat, but lost.
Chacha–bhateeja coming together?
The SP’s withdrawal of its petition has opened up a new political conversation about ‘chacha’ Shivpal and ‘bhateeja’ Akhilesh coming back together. Sources told ThePrint that the plea was withdrawn at the behest of party patriarch Mulayam Singh.
But speaking to the television channel ABP News Friday, Akhilesh clarified: “Samajwadi party will not form an alliance with any big party, but will adjust smaller parties. We can do local adjustments with chacha ji. We can adjust his party on the Jaswantnagar seat. But we’ll decide these things before the 2022 assembly elections.”
Shivpal, meanwhile, said: “It’s a good decision by the Samajwadi Party and I welcome it. These ‘adjustments’ or alliance issues will be decided in the future, not right now. Today, I only say that I welcome their decision. There are no other talks right now.”
Sources close to the Yadav family have indicated that Shivpal’s return to the party or an alliance are distinct possibilities. A person close to the family told ThePrint: “There is a possibility of chacha ji’s ghar-wapsi (uncle’s return home), but in a different way. He is already running a political party, so either he can merge it with the SP, or can have an alliance. If he goes with the second option, only then bhaiya ji (Akhilesh) will decide how many seats they can share. We have to wait for few more months for a clearer picture.”
SP spokesperson & MLC Udaiveer Singh said: “It’s a family issue. We should not comment on it. We all respect chacha ji but the final decision will be taken by the party chief (Akhilesh).”
Falling out and attempts at reconciliation
The tussle between uncle and nephew began in 2016, when Akhilesh was chief minister. He removed chief secretary Deepak Singhal, who was perceived to be close to Shivpal and another of Mulayam’s close aides, Amar Singh.
Then, Mulayam, then the SP’s national president, removed Akhilesh as the party’s UP president, and replaced him with Shivpal. Akhilesh retaliated by stripping his powerful uncle of all key ministries, especially the public works department (PWD). Akhilesh then sacked Shivpal and three others from his cabinet.
Heading into the 2017 elections, the SP was split down the middle, with Mulayam and Shivpal on one side, and their cousin Ram Gopal Yadav and Akhilesh on the other. Both sides approached the Election Commission for use of the party’s bicycle symbol, and it ruled in Akhilesh’s favour.
Mulayam tried to salvage the situation and claimed all was well in the party and the family. But the SP’s defeat at the hands of the BJP in 2017 led to murmurs that it was all due to the family tussle.
Long after Shivpal split to form his own party, Mulayam tried to bring them back together after the SP’s poor results in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections — it only won five seats in alliance with its traditional rival, the BSP.
In November 2019, Shivpal had shown an interest in joining hands with Akhilesh on the occasion of Mulayam’s birthday. Shivpal had also said he was not aspiring for the CM’s chair, and hoped the two parties could move towards the 2022 UP assembly elections together.
Akhilesh has kept the door open for an alliance with smaller parties, which could include Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal and Om Prakash Rajbhar’s Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party. Speculation has been rife since Rajbhar met Akhilesh a few months ago at the SP office.
Dr Kaviraj, professor of political science at Lucknow University, said the potential alliance could be a fruitful alliance for the Samajwadi Party, especially if Shivpal comes on board.
“RLD still has a foothold in western Uttar Pradesh, while Rajbhar has a presence in Ghazipur and Ballia districts of eastern UP. If Shivpal also joins hands, then the SP’s core Yadav vote will not get split,” he said.
For Akhilesh, it’s a case of ‘once bitten, twice shy’ in terms of allying with big parties, a source close to him said. “Akhilesh does not want to ally with Congress and BSP after SP defeats in 2017 and 2019 respectively. But smaller forces are still an option. Let’s wait for a few more months,” the source said.
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