Mulayam Singh Yadav, the chief of Samajwadi Party (SP) that is in power in India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, on Friday announced the expulsion of his son, state chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, from the party for six years. He had earlier in the day expelled his cousin, senior party functionary Ramgopal Yadav, for six years after he announced an emergency meeting on January 1.
The surprise move comes after Akhilesh "circulated" his own list of 235 candidates for the upcoming state elections parallel to the party's official list of 393 nominees. The election in Uttar Pradesh (UP) is the largest regional election in India. Both Akhilesh and Ramgopal were slapped with showcause notices by the party.
On Thursday, Mulayam had released a list of election candidate without consulting Akhilesh, and refused to name his son as the chief ministerial candidate. Mulayam had also excluded people who are believed to be close to Akhilesh.
Ram Govind Chaudhary, Pawan Pandey and Arvind Singh Gope are members of the pro-Akhilesh group who have been left out of the candidates' list.
"We have to save the party. The party comes first. That is why we are expelling both Akhilesh and Ramgopal," Mulayam said while announcing Akhilesh's expulsion.
"How can he (Akhilesh) release the list when the party has declared its candidates. Both Akhilesh and Ramgopal want to finish the party. I will not let it happen. I have built this party through hard work," Mulayam said.
He said Ramgopal has not only indulged in indiscipline, but was causing harm to the party. "As of now we have expelled him, but we will take further action against him," the party chief asserted.
Ramgopal has called the expulsion "unconstitutional".
Akhilesh has asked his lawmakers to attend a party meet at 9 am tomorrow (December 31).
On a day of fast-moving developments, hordes of frenzied Akhilesh supporters, especially the youth, thronged his residence to express their support.
The timing of the announcement also underscored the fault lines in the family-led party, prompting "pari-war" memes that play on the Hindi word for family. The SP candidates' list was announced when Akhilesh was away in Bundelkhand in southern UP.
The father-son trust hit a low in mid-August when Akhilesh got into an acrimonious power struggle with his uncle, Shivpal Yadav.
UP poll results become crucial for the Indian polity because of the ramifications it holds for the ruling party in power at the national level. The Bharatiya Janata Party, for instance, is focused on improving its tally of MPs (Members of Parliament) in the state as that will improve its numbers in Rajya Sabha, or the Upper House of Parliament, and facilitate the smooth clearance of legislation.
Earlier, Mulayam had called a meeting on Saturday of all those allotted tickets by him even as the Akhilesh camp remained adamant on contesting against the official candidates of the party.
Mulayam had reportedly attempted to avert a split after the crisis reached a stalemate last night when Akhilesh "circulated" his own list of 235 candidates for the upcoming Assembly elections. The party's official list had named 393 nominees.
Uttar Pradesh assembly has 403 seats. The battle for control in SP has left grassroots cadres confused about their leadership.
Shivpal Yadav, Akhilesh's acrimonious uncle, met his brother Mulayam for nearly an hour this morning. Shivpal, however, did not respond to questions from journalists waiting outside Mulayam's residence.
Mulayam's cousin and SP general secretary Ramgopal Yadav, who is an Akhilesh supporter, had said there was no question of going back on the list prepared by the chief minister.
He also said that many in the party did not want to see Akhilesh as chief minister again which is being seen by many as a veiled swipe at Shivpal Yadav.
"The fact remains that people of the state want him back as CM," he claimed.
He said Mulayam had convened a meeting on January 1 to take a final call on ticket distribution, "but due to pressure (from Shivpal)", he announced the list on December 28.
Akhilesh's list, which was not signed, was circulated on social media last night by party MLAs who failed to find a mention in the official list.
Party observers said it would be interesting to observe if the 170-180 candidates, who figure in both lists, attend Mulayam's meeting or opt out.
Akhilesh, who was present at an official function here this morning, did not take questions from journalists.
Although those candidates owing allegiance to Akhilesh expressed their intention to contest polls "in the name of and as the face of the CM", it was still not clear whether they would float a new party.