LUCKNOW: At a conclave in Lucknow on Thursday, when Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav was asked about his ongoing game of one-upmanship with his uncle Shivpal Yadav and whether they would present a united front during elections, his reply was: “Chacha mere saath ho ya na ho, janata mere saath hai” (Doesn’t matter whether I get the backing of my uncle or not, people of UP are with me).
The comment, though made in jest, reflected the state of affair in UP’s ruling party just before a make-or-break state polls. After a relative calm following a tumultuous September and October, the ticket distribution has once again exposed the fault lines in SP’s first family.
While one of the key demands of Akhilesh during the recent tussle was that he should be given a say in ticket distribution, Shivpal, in capacity of the state chief, is openly exercising his discretion. The first sign of it came last week when he fielded mafia-turned-politician Atiq Ahmad from Kanpur Cantonment, reportedly without even consulting Akhilesh.
At a party function in Allahabad last month, Akhilesh pushed Atiq out of the stage when the latter tried to get closer to him. “Giving ticket to Atiq was much against Akhilesh’s known stand of keeping the tainted and criminal elements at bay in these elections. Besides, Shivpal is announcing candidates by defying the norms of getting it vetted through the Central Parliamentary Board,” says a member of Team Akhilesh.
Soon after, however, Akhilesh ‘retaliated’ by appointing his key aide Javed Abdi as an adviser to the irrigation department. Abdi was pushed out of stage by Shivpal during the SP’s silver jubilee programme in Lucknow. By giving him MoS rank in the irrigation department – held by Shivpal before he was removed -- Akhilesh sent out a strong message to his ‘rivals’ in the party.
Sigbatullah Ansari, the Qaumi Ekta Dal leader and brother of another strongman Mukhtar Ansari, was also among 23 candidates announced by Shivpal last week and so was Brij Kishore Singh, the brother of sacked minister Raj Kishore Singh. After being sacked along with Gayatri Prajapati in September, Raj Kishore had spoken openly against Akhilesh.
Later, though Prajapati was reinstated, Raj Kishore is still out of ministry. Although party general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav, assuming the role of a peacemaker, said that the tickets were distributed after seeking Mulayam’s consent, Akhilesh’s statement that “ticket distribution is a continuous process during elections. Tickets can be changed and candidates can be reviewed even after the announcement of poll dates,” is being taken in the political circles as a clear indication of his intentions.
“A number of lists may be out and candidates decided but the decision taken by party’s top brass after the announcement of poll dates will stand,” says a senior party leader close to Akhilesh. Moreover, the chief minister has made it amply clear that he will not campaign for the party candidates with criminal credentials. He is reportedly charting out his own campaign course with the third leg of his Vikas se Vijay ki Ore Rath Yatra in Bundelkhand. Akhilesh has also conspicuously kept away from two rallies addressed by party chief Mulayam Sigh Yadav in Ghazipur and Bareilly so far. Both the rallies were organised by State SP chief Shivpal Yadav.