Power tussle lays bare fissures in SP

Power tussle lays bare fissures in SP

It is uncertain whether the truce reached between the battling factions in the Samajwadi Party, which rules Uttar Pradesh, will last. The patch-up was effected by party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav after his son Akhilesh Yadav, who is the chief minister, and brother Shivpal Yadav, a senior minister who wields considerable influence in the party, came out attacking and acting against each other in public. As part of the compromise, Akhilesh has returned most of the portfolios he had taken away from his uncle and accepted him as the party’s state president. Akhilesh was the party president till he was divested of the position last week. He has also agreed to take back two ministers belonging to Shivpal’s faction whom he had sacked recently. In return, he has been promised the position of the president of the party’s parliamentary board which will give him a greater say in the selection of candidates for the Assembly elections to be held next year. 

Mulayam had given an impression that he supported his brother more than his son in the party’s factional feud. That had given the tussle the look of a fight between generations. But, it is also a tactical manoeuvring for the power and ability to control the future after the elections. The problems in the party are longstanding, though they have erupted only recently. Shivpal Yadav had expected to become chief minister when the party won the 2012 elections. But Mulayam, then, favoured his son. Akhilesh had the image of a modern, educated youth who could impart a new culture in the governance of a backward state. But he did not have much room for independent action in the shadow of his father and uncles, Shivpal Yadav and Ram Gopal Yadav, who had greater control over the organisation. The state continued to be a byword for misgovernance and lawlessness.

Akhilesh, perhaps, wants to project himself before the elections as development-oriented and keen to go beyond the family and identity politics of the party. But he has asserted himself too late, and such assertions cannot go far in a proprietorial party which has a fairly defined support base. With over 20 members of the Mulayam family in political and government positions, family equations decide the balance of power in the party. But the divisions at the top have gone down to the lower levels, as seen by rival public protests by followers of both Akhilesh and Shivpal even after the patch-up. Differences over electoral alliances and strategies and selection of candidates can again lead to ruptures and open hostilities. Even if a veneer of unity is maintained, much damage has already been done to the party.
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