With Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav finalising a new poll strategy, independent of his father Mulayam Singh Yadav and his uncle Shivpal Yadav, the Samajwadi Party appears heading for a vertical split.

The crisis, in fact, has so deepened that the warring factions, led respectively by Akhilesh Yadav and Shivpal Yadav, have started operating from two separate headquarters in Lucknow with absolutely no communication between the two.

“Unless good sense prevails on Mulayam Singh Yadav and he quickly finds a way to give Akhilesh Yadav a final say in all election-related decisions of the Samajwadi Party, it would be impossible for him (the chief minister) to work within the existing framework of the party,” a ministerial colleague of Akhilesh Yadav told Scroll over phone. “This has to be done fast. The time is running out and both sides are aware of this,” he said, preferring to remain anonymous.

Akhilesh Yadav also hinted at his extraordinary move to go into the crucial state elections on his own when he told the Times of India: “Bachpan mein mera naam mujhe khud rakhana pada (when I was a child, there was no one to name me and I had to name myself). In the same way, I think I will have to start my election campaign on my own, without waiting for anyone.”

Akhilesh Yadav’s ministerial colleague clarified and confirmed this separately. “What the Chief Minister has said (in the interview to the Times of India) is not just a threat. Contesting elections independent of his father and his uncle is what we have decided upon. Akhilesh Yadav’s image matters and no one will be allowed to tarnish it. If it means a split in the Samajwadi Party, so be it.”

A new office

Already, the two warring factions of the Samajwadi Party have started operating from two separate establishments in Lucknow. While the official faction, effectively under Shivpal Yadav, who is president of the state party unit, continues to operate from the Samajwadi Party Karyalaya at 19, Vikramaditya Marg, the group under the leadership of the chief minister has turned the office of Janeshwar Mishra Trust at Kalidas Marg into its headquarters.

The office of the trust was inaugurated on October 10 by Akhilesh Yadav, who is also its chairman. Interestingly the inauguration was done in the presence of a number of youth leaders expelled from the party’s state committee a few days back by Shivpal Yadav. These youth leaders had played a key role in the management of Akhilesh Yadav’s campaign, including his rath yatra, before the 2012 Assembly elections.

Just last week, on October 6, Akhilesh Yadav moved out of his father’s residence at 5, Vikramaditya Marg and shifted to the official residence of the chief minister on Kalidas Marg close to the Janeshwar Mishra Trust office.

As of now, the trust, which was formed “to propagate the socialist ideology of Janeshwar Mishra”, is working as the headquarters of the Samajwadi Party faction led by Akhilesh Yadav. Not only have all the expelled youth leaders been given a place here, the office has also been converted into the chief minister’s war room, where sitting MLAs are being called regularly for meetings and a final list of candidates is being prepared for upcoming elections, said a sitting Samajwadi Party MLA.

In the party, while Akhilesh Yadav enjoys the support of the younger workers as well as Samajwadi Party veterans like Ramgopal Yadav and Azam Khan, his rival Shivpal Yadav has the backing of his own loyalists since he has been the key leader managing the party’s organisation.

Besides, the majority of the party MLAs are said to be with the chief minister, a fact which is believed to have been in the mind of Akhilesh early this month when he declared that “one who has the trump card will win”.

Advantage Akhilesh

According to Samajwadi Party insiders, the Akhilesh Yadav faction is expecting that more than 70% of the sitting MLAs of the party would opt for it in the event of a showdown with the faction led by Shivpal Yadav.

In fact, in his war against his uncle, Akhilesh Yadav has a concrete advantage – he is not just the chief ministerial face of his party but is also above all anti-incumbency against his party. His personal image, despite the family feud and his five year stint as the Chief Minister, has remained untainted as there is a general view in UP that he is a well-meaning person who wants to work for the development of the state but is not being allowed to function independently by his father and his uncle.

It is this image of the chief minister that is being factored in by his supporters as a major source of their strength, which could be played up in the polls only if Akhilesh Yadav severs himself from the party’s old guards – a fact that has put him in the league of Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, who too is trying hard to be seen as a crusader for development despite facing “resistance” from the old guard in his own party.

Supporters of Akhilesh Yadav believe that it is this convergence of the two young leaders that led the Uttar Pradesh chief minister to come out in support of Rahul Gandhi’s “khoon ki dalali” [profiteering from blood] remarks made against the Narendra Modi government’s attempts to politicise the surgical strikes conducted by Indian Army.

“I am not sure about Congress but I have good relations with Rahul Gandhi. If he has said something, he must have given it much thought. He must have some information about it,” Akhilesh Yadav said on October 10, the day he inaugurated the Janeshwar Mishra Trust office, his war room in the fight against Shivpal Yadav.