The feud in the Mulayam Singh extended family dates back to the UP election of 2012, which the Samajwadi Party won. Party strongman Mulayam Singh chose to anoint his son Akhilesh as chief minister, overlooking the claims of Shivpal, who had been his sidekick for long.
It was no secret that Shivpal harboured chief ministerial ambitions and did not take too kindly to being overlooked.
The victory in the election had been attributed to Akhilesh’s youthful appeal. His promise of a changed Samajwadi Party found favour with an electorate that had grown wary of the lawlessness that marked the party’s earlier tenure (2002-2007).
Now with Assembly polls coming closer, Akhilesh is again intent on sprucing up the image of his government. As president of the UP unit of the party, he recently overturned a decision taken by his father on the merger of the Quami Ekta Dal [QED] with the Samajwadi Party.
The QED is a party based in eastern UP and has controversial connections. It is headed by ex-SP MP Afzal Ansari, the elder brother of ganster-politician Mukhtar Ansari, who is now in jail in connection with the murder of a BJP MLA.
The merger had been steered by Shivpal, and when the nephew publicly nixed the deal, he felt humiliated.
Akhilesh was adamant that the merger would have sullied the clean image of his government, something he had worked hard for. Before the 2012 elections, he had opposed the entry of crime-tainted politician D P Yadav into SP.
Mulayam too had begun to take the same line, ticking off some ministers for corruption and land-grabbing. This prompted the chief minister to sack two of them, mining minister Gayatri Prajapati and panchayati raj minister Raj Kishore Singh.
As in 2007, the taint of corruption began to stick to the Samajwadi Party government so much so that BJP president Amit Shah kept saying at public meetings that UP is being run by three-and-a-half CMs: Akhilesh, Shivpal and Mulayam besides Azam Khan.