Of Uncles and Nephews: Pitfalls of nepotism
With the cancellation of the Samajwadi Party’s merger with the Quami Ekta Dal, the tussle for control between Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his uncle, Shivpal Yadav, comes to the fore yet again in the lead-up to the 2017 Assembly polls
Pradeep Kapoor Lucknow
By forcing his party to cancel the merger with gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari’s Quami Ekta Dal (QED), UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav may have antagonised his uncle and state Cabinet Minister Shivpal Singh Yadav but he has certainly boosted his own image. Much significance is being attached to this decision as it is expected to directly impact the Assembly polls to be held in the state early next year.
Shivpal, who is also the Samajwadi Party (SP) election in-charge, had negotiated the merger with Mukhtar and his elder brother and Ghazipur MP, Afzal Ansari. He was supported in this by fellow Cabinet Minister Balram Yadav, who saw it as a way to increase the SP’s support base, especially in and around Varanasi, where the QED contested in alliance with the Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) in the 2012 Assembly elections. The party did well in 24 constituencies, securing more than 30,000 votes from every constituency in which it fielded a candidate. Mukhtar Ansari himself won from Mau while his brother, Sibghatullah Ansari, won from Mumdabad.
What is most intriguing about this entire charade is the fact that Shivpal and Balram managed to keep the state’s CM completely in the dark about what they were orchestrating. Akhilesh’s response when he found out was to get in touch with his father, SP national President Mulayam Singh Yadav. He followed this up by immediately sacking Balram.
Mulayam then convened a parliamentary board meeting, at which the merger was cancelled, with SP national General Secretary Ram Gopal Yadav – citing Akhilesh’s anger as the reason. After Mulayam and Shivpal assuaged Akhilesh, Balram was brought back into the Cabinet in the June 26 expansion.
The manner in which controversial politicians Beni Prasad Verma and Amar Singh were brought back to the party and made Rajya Sabha MPs has not made the CM happy either. Again, it was Shivpal, with the backing of Mulayam, who was instrumental in these decisions
Political experts feel that the SP could gain political brownie points from the manner in which Akhilesh asserted himself to keep away from criminal elements at a time when elections could be held in the next few months. It is worth reflecting here on how his decision to block the membership of gangster D.P. Yadav in the lead-up to the 2012 Assembly polls benefitted the party. More evidence of the CM’s determination to distance the party from such characters can be found in the immediate sacking of erstwhile Cabinet Minister Raghuraj Pratap Singh, alias Raja bhaiyya, when his name figured in the brutal murder of police official Ziaul Haq in Pratapgarh. A video of him pushing criminal-politician Atiq Ahmad away from him at a public function went viral recently as well.
It seems the young CM has started to assert his position amidst the uncles he is surrounded by and the problems they are creating. Recently, two of his close lieutenants, Anand Bhadauria and Sunil Yadav, were expelled from the party by Shivpal without consulting him, which led to his boycotting the Saifai Mahotsav, the SP’s biggest annual event, in December. He then prevailed upon the party high command to cancel the expulsion and brought back his associates to the party and made them MLCs.
Meanwhile, the manner in which controversial politicians Beni Prasad Verma and Amar Singh were brought back to the party and made Rajya Sabha MPs has not made the CM happy either. Again, it was Shivpal, with the backing of Mulayam, who was instrumental in these decisions.
When Akhilesh opposed continuing with the Mahagathbandhan in Bihar, Shivpal was very keen on it and even addressed the public meeting in Bihar and announced the full support of his party and Mulayam. But Ram Gopal’s advice led to the party pulling out of the alliance, which was not appreciated by Shivpal. There have also been several instances of Akhilesh and Shivpal making critical comments on the performance of their respective departments.
The hostility between uncle and nephew can be traced back to when Mulayam decided to make Akhilesh the chief minister. Shivpal and Azam were of the strong opinion that Mulayam himself should be at the state’s helm. Akhilesh, the state party president, was similarly unhappy at his father’s decision, all of a sudden, to put Shivpal in charge of the party’s 2017 election campaign.
Mulayam announced that Akhilesh will start his Vikas Rath Yatra from September 12 to tour the state and visit all the Assembly constituencies in order to create awareness about the various development schemes launched by the government. As the temperature rises between the chief minister and his uncle – the face and brains of the campaign, respectively – it remains to be seen how their sharp differences will affect the party’s chances in the polls.