LUCKNOW: “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 are with me). This was the response of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav when asked whether he and his uncle Shivpal Yadav would present a united front during the Assembly elections.
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, 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, Shiv pal, in his capacity as state party president, is openly exercising his discretion. The first sign of it came last week when Shivpal included mafia-turned-politician Atiq Ahmad in the candidates list, reportedly without 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. Besides, Shivpal is announcing candidates by defying the norms of getting it vetted through the Central Parliamentary Board,” says a member of Akhilesh camp.
Soon after Akhilesh ‘retaliated’ by appointing his key aide Javed Abdi as an adviser to the irrigation department. Abdi was pushed away from the 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 a strong message to his rivals.
Sigbatullah Ansari, the Qaumi Ekta Dal leader and brother of another strongman Mukhtar Ansari and Brij Kishore Singh, the brother of sacked minister Raj Kishore Singh, were also among the 23 candidates announced by Shivpal last week. 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 the 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 “tickets can be changed and candidates can be reviewed even after the announcement of poll dates” indicates the CM’s intentions. “A number of lists may be out 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, Akhilesh 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 with the third leg of his Vikas Yatra. Akhilesh also kept away from the two rallies addressed by party chief Mulayam Sigh Yadav in Ghazipur and Bareilly.