Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav sacked his uncle Shivpal Yadav and four other ministers today. Three of them were cabinet ministers. Hours later, Shivpal, speaking to the press, announced the expulsion of Akhilesh loyalist Ramgopal Yadav from the party for six years.
Ramgopal Yadav is also Akhilesh's uncle and Shivpal's cousin.
Shivpal said Ramgopal's expulsion from all party posts had been ordered by party supremo and Akhilesh's father Mulayam Singh Yadav.
This back and forth – with son and father sacking each others loyalists – has led to intense speculation that the party is headed for an imminent split (read accompanying story). It is generally thought that Mulayam and Shivpal represent the Samajwadi Party's old guard, while Akhilesh represents a younger, and therefore fresher, outlook.
The bad blood between the chief minister and his uncle is being blamed, by some sections, on Amar Singh. Singh was at one time Mulayam's right-hand man, until he was suspended from the Samajwadi Party in 2010. He rejoined the party in May this this year but does not now wield his earlier clout. Singh though is still thought of as being close to Mulayam, while the Akhilesh camp is thought not to approve of him.
PTI reported prominent Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan as blaming "one single outsider" for the "unfortunate" developments.
In what is thought of as a reference to Singh, he said, "It is happening due to one single outsider who has penetrated into the ruling party's family and I have been apprising my colleagues about his detrimental presence in the party."
But other sections blame the rift on Mulayam's second wife, Sadhna Gupta Yadav, who is reportedly miffed that her son Prateek has not been allowed to join the family profession of politics and has had to settle instead for opening a chain of bodybuilding gyms.
A few hours before he was expelled, Ramgopal had written a letter to party workers endorsing Akhilesh as the future of the party.
"Those who oppose Akhilesh won't be able to show their faces in the legislative assembly. Where Akhilesh is, victory follows," he had said.
At the other end, a day earlier, Shivpal had sacked another close aide of Akhilesh's, Udayveer Singh, after he wrote a letter to Mulayam asking him to name Akhilesh as the party's national president – a post currently held by Mulayam – and accused Mulayam's second wife of conspiring against Akhilesh.
Talking to the press after his sacking, Shivpal vowed to fight, and win, the upcoming assembly elections – the state goes to the polls early next year – under Mulayam's leadership.
"In 2017 we will form the government under the leadership of Netaji," he said. Netaji is Mulayam.
He added that his sacking was an attempt at weakening the party leadership. Referring to Ramgopal without actually naming him, he said his sacking had been triggered by "someone" who was playing into the hands of the BJP (which is in power at the centre) to escape the clutches of the central bureau of investigation – Ramgopal and his son are currently being probed them for their alleged involvement in a corruption case.
The rift in the family, one of the most dominant politically in the state, started in September when Shivpal replaced Akhilesh as the party's state president. That was ordered by Mulayam. Akhilesh had hit back then by taking three major portfolios away from Shivpal.