Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav appeared to snatch control of the Samajwadi Party on Sunday as a meeting called by his faction elected him party chief, replacing father Mulayam Singh Yadav.
The “extraordinary national convention” was attended by more than 200 of SP’s 229 legislators, ministers and tens of thousands of workers and called for state president Shivpal Yadav’s sacking and parliamentarian Amar Singh’s expulsion. Both are considered the CM’s top adversaries.
“I will take every step to save my father (from conspirators) and strengthen the party. I am ready to make sacrifices,” Akhilesh said.
“Akhilesh is the political heir to Netaji. The party will go into polls under his leadership, and he will be the face of the party,” declared national vice-president Kiranmoy Nanda, considered a long-time aide to Mulayam.
But the bruising battle for control of the state’s ruling party ahead of state polls this year appeared far from over. Hours later, Mulayam declared the event “illegal and unauthorised” and called a separate national convention on January 5.
A brawl broke out on the streets of Lucknow as groups of workers from camps loyal to Akhilesh and Mulayam fought to gain control of the party office.
“I will take every step to save my father (from conspirators) and strengthen the party. I am ready to make sacrifices,” Akhilesh said. “Mulayam Singh is my father and continues to hold the highest position for the party and me.”
He was joined on stage by national general secretary Ramgopal Yadav, vice-president Kiranmoy Nanda and MP Naresh Agarwal. All three were expelled from the party by Mulayam in the evening.
“Mulayam Singh is my father and continues to hold the highest position for the party and me,” the UP CM said.
But the status of Akhilesh’s elevation as national president and the “expulsions” remained unclear as Mulayam didn’t step down as national president and had not accepted chief patron’s position announced for him.
The running feud between the CM and his uncle Shivpal has seen a series of tit-for-tat sackings and parallel candidates list, which are seen to have hurt the party’s chances in the upcoming polls.
The dramatic events came barely a day after Mulayam revoked Akhilesh’s suspension in the party following a groundswell of support for the young leader and intense media scrutiny.
That support was visible on Sunday morning as massive crowds cheered Akhilesh’s elevation and the announcement that the CM would appoint a new parliamentary board and all state units.
“Ticket distribution (by Shivpal) was wrong. These people never wanted Samajwadi Party to form the next government in the state,” Ramgopal said.
The cheers got louder when Shivpal’s ouster and Amar’s expulsion were demanded.
On Saturday, 214 party MLAs had attended a meeting called by Akhilesh and did not go to Mulayam’s meeting. They all attended the convention too.
But more significant was the presence of top leaders considered loyal to Mulayam – minister Ahmed Hasan, MLC SRS Yadav, Nanda and Agarwal. Maharashtra state president Abu Asim Azmi, who listens only to Mulayam, also flew in from Mumbai to join the convention.
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