The Samajwadi Party was today split down the middle with Mulayam Singh Yadav's cousin Ram Gopal backing Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav who is locked in a turf war with uncle Shivpal while party leaders blamed "outsider" Amar Singh for the crisis.
Party supremo Mulayam rushed to Lucknow from Delhi and is expected to hold talks with his son Akhilesh and other leaders in a bid to control the damage.
Samajwadi Party national general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav, who met Akhilesh here, said the leadership had committed an unintentional "mistake" by removing Akhilesh as party's UP president.
He said that "differences" had arisen due to some "misunderstanding" even as he made a veiled attack on Rajya Sabh MP Amar Singh.
The feud had spilled into the open after the Chief Minister stripped Shivpal of key ministerial portfolios on September 13, hours after he was replaced with Shivpal as the party's state unit chief by his father.
"Differences do take place on some minor point and they can be resolved.... The leadership, though not deliberately, had made a mistake when CM was removed from the post of (state) president (of SP)," Ram Gopal told reporters.
When asked about the chief minister's statement regarding role of "outsiders" in the family tussle, Ram Gopal said, "There is a general perception in party workers, leaders and people about this...".
Singh, who was expelled from the party in 2010, rejoined the SP recently.
Cabinet Minister Azam Khan also took a swipe at his bete-noir Amar Singh, though he refrained from naming him, and said the Chief Minister was right in his assessment.
"If the Chief Minister is saying it, he must be right as he is in a responsible position. We had such apprehensions and that is why we had strongly opposed the return of such people who had a black history. Their only job is to make recordings and blackmail," he said.
Party's Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Agarwal said "if there is any outsider, who is interfering, he should stop immediately" and asserted that Akhilesh will be the chief ministerial candidate of Samajwadi Party in the upcoming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
Targeting Amar Singh, Ram Gopal said that due to "simplicity" of Mulayam, "those who have nothing to do with party's interest are able to take benefit".
"They harm the party.... All those who met me are saying so," he said.
"He is the same person, who used netaji's simplicity to make an incharge of the party (Shivpal was earlier made SP UP incharge). There is no such post in SP. They say you are being challenged.....There is no one in the party who can challenge netaji," Ram Gopal said.
Shivpal, however, defended Amar Singh saying an organisation is strengthened by taking everyone along.
Asked about other SP leaders' "unhappiness" with Amar Singh, he said, "Taking everyone along makes an organisation stronger. There are all kinds of people in a party. One has to apply his mind also."
Amid the opposition to the manner of his appointment as state unit chief, he said, "I was state president in 2011 and now netaji (Mulayam) has once again given me this responsibility. No one has the capacity to disobey what he says."
His reaction came after Ram Gopal said, "He (Akhilesh) should have been asked to resign and he would have tendered it. He could have been told that elections are coming and you continue as CM and the work of state president will be taken care of by him (Shivpal)."
As the war of words intensified, Mulayam, who was due to arrive in Uttar Pradesh capital tomorrow, decided to leave Delhi this morning itself and reached Lucknow.
After meeting the Chief Minister, Ram Gopal said "everything will be resolved once netaji (Mulayam) and CM will talk....".
Yesterday, Mulayam gave a patient hearing to Shivpal for four hours to get his side of the story. Shivpal told Mulayam that despite following his orders, he was being painted as a villain.