"You are my uncle, you take everything". As the 'Yadav Mahabharat' unfolded in Uttar Pradesh, with a cast of characters almost wholly of the Mulayam Singh Yadav clan, this plea by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to his uncle Shivpal Yadav failed to mollify the latter. Shivpal Yadav resigned from the Cabinet and as UP party chief, a position to which 'Netaji', his elder brother Mulayam Singh Yadav, had just appointed him.
With elections to the state assembly just six months away, the Samajwadi Party is being roiled by an unseemly family drama that even has people pointing at a 'Shakuni' as being behind what has become a multi-sided rift -- between father and son, Mulayam and Akhilesh, between uncle Shivpal and nephew Akhilesh, and between the many uncles -- Mulayam's brothers.
Amar Singh, Mulayam's old buddy who only returned to the party recently after years in exile, is the focus of Akhilesh's anger. Akhilesh, after all, had strongly opposed Amar Singh's return to the party, but had been overruled by Mulayam.
What started the fire?
It all began with an order of the Allahabad High Court ordering a probe into illegal mining in Uttar Pradesh. Senior officials of the state advised Mulayam Singh Yadav that the state mines minister Gayatri Prasad Prajapati would prove a liability if the probe got underway and therefore should be sacked before he causes political damage ahead of the elections.
Mulayam directed Akhilesh to sack Prajapati forthwith. But this did not go down well with Shivpal Yadav, who is close to Prajapati. Shivpal hit back by making out a case against RajkishoreSingh, the Panchayat Raj minister, saying he, too, was involved in corruption and must be sacked.
In a bid to strike a balance between son and brother, Mulayam directed Akhilesh to sack both Prajapati and Rajkishore Singh, which the chief minister did promptly.
But the drama had just begun. Prajapati then complained to Mulayam that it was Chief Secretary Deepak Singhal who had directed UP officials to make affidavits on illegal mining and so he must be sacked, before he causes any more damage to the party. Mulayam agreed with this,too, and called up son Akhilesh to tell him to sack Singhal. Akhilesh complied with this, too.
It was then that 'outsider' Amar Singh came into the picture, and what was apparently an exercise to clean up their stables ahead of elections in which corruption is likely to be a big issue, spun out of control into a Yadav family feud. Singhal rushed to Amar Singh and asked him to impress upon him that the party and the government would not look good if they sacked the chief secretary so close to elections.
Mulayam was convinced of Amar Singh's argument, too. He promptly called up Akhilesh and asked him to reinstate Singhal as chief secretary. This time, though, Akhilesh snapped. Fully aware that Amar Singh was the man behind Mulayam's U-turn, Akhilesh yelled back at his father that the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh could not change his own order that he had issued only a few hours earlier and cut the conversation.
While Mulayam was fuming at the tone in which his son had spoken to him, sources said, Amar Singh aggravated the father-son rift by suggesting to Mulayam that he show his son his place. Mulayam is said to have done this by stripping Akhilesh of the party chief's post and appointing brother Shivpal Yadav in his place.
Akhilesh, desperate to ensure that he remained in control, retaliated by stripping Shivpal of the portfolios he held in the ministry. It was meant to be a message to both his father Mulayam and to Amar Singh.
Except, Shivpal, feeling humiliated, decided to flex his own muscles, resigning from all posts himself as well as getting his son and wife, too, to quit their party posts.
As the party stares at the possibility of a vertical split, Akhilesh has written to uncle Shivpal refusing to accept his resignation and asking him to carry on his ministerial duties. But clearly, this drama is far from over.