UP Watch: Akhilesh denies coveted PWD portfolio to uncle Shivpal

LUCKNOW: The bickerings in Samajwadi Party refused to die down on Saturday, with Mulayam Singh Yadav lashing out at son Akhilesh Yadav after the assertive CM forced him to re-work the “peace formula” to secure an important say in selection of candidates for next year’s assembly polls.

Faced with a forceful Akhilesh, whose supporters took to the streets to protest against his replacement by Shivpal Yadav as the state party chief, Mulayam had to revise his formula to vest the power of ticket distribution with his son. The role has traditionally been discharged by the party chief and its loss will undermine Shivpal’s clout and his ambition to challenge nephew Akhilesh.

The CM had publicly asserted on Friday that the final say in the distribution of tickets should be his as it would be his performance on test in the polls. Mulayam’s public outburst against Akhilesh for allegedly seeking to undermine Shivpal’s stature made it plain that the CM had wrested the gain in the face of resistance — something which forcefully attested to Akhilesh’s emergence as a leader in his own right.

In another move suggestive of his growing clout vis-a-vis the redoubtable Shivpal and Mulayam, Akhilesh did not restore, as desired by the SP chief, the PWD portfolio to his uncle. He did allot more departments to Shivpal, 13 in all, but the loss of PWD should rankle Mulayam’s favourite sibling.

PWD has a budget bigger than that of all of Shivpal’s 13 departments put together. More importantly, the denial of the department served as a power statement, signalling the arrival of Akhilesh, confident of his authority and keen to exercise it remorselessly. Akhilesh tried to sugercoat the bitter pill by visiting his uncle and congratulating him on his appointment as the head of SP’s state unit. His loyalists, drawn from allied organisations, also proclaimed their respect and loyalty to Mulayam.

But there was no mistaking the shift in power equations, with Mulayam and Shivpal at the receiving end and Akhilesh on the winning side.

In its original shape, Mulayam’s peace prescriptions had appeared to be in favour of Shivpal, especially because the SP chief also asked for the reinstatement of Gayatri Prajapati, whom Akhilesh had sacked as minister. However, Akhilesh’s assertiveness, verging on defiance and backed by a show of solidarity by his supporters, forced Mulayam to revise it at Shivpal’s expense. With the CM securing the ticket distribution right while holding on to PWD, Shivpal looked considerably undermined.

With Akhilesh insisting on having his way and Mulayam unable to resist him completely, speculation is already raging about what could be in store for Rajya Sabha member Amar Singh, whom Akhilesh has openly blamed for the present impasse, and senior IAS officer Deepak Singhal, considered close to Shivpal and Amar. Singhal was sacked as chief secretary on Tuesday, a decision which led to a ripple effect and ended in Mulayam removing Akhilesh from the post of state SP chief and finally the CM taking four key portfolios from Shivpal. Mulayam is likely to take a call on the two contentious issues in days to come.

The power brawl had continued on Saturday morning. Mulayam’s four-point formula failed to get the two sides to bury the hatchet. As the day progressed, Akhilesh supporters hit the streets with their demand for his reinstatement as SP state chief. This was the first time since the party was formed in 1991 that a family feud spiralled out of the four walls of their houses. The situation was defused when Akhilesh asked all his supporters to report at his 5, Kalidas Marg residence.

However, with the heads of SP’s allied parties coming out in open defiance and declaring that they won’t work under Shivpal (see accompanying copy ‘…Jawani qurbaan’), and a few MLAs and MLCs taking sides blatantly, the party patriarch thought it was enough. After reportedly taking inputs from intelligence sleuths about the protesters, Mulayam asked his son to visit his uncle and sort out the differences over lunch. That was around 1.30 pm. Late in the evening, Mulayam, Akhilesh and Shivpal sat together once again. Here, the decision to appoint Akhilesh as the state parliamentary board chief got the seal of approval.

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