Two successive conclaves of the Samajwadi Party – on November 3 to flag off Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s state-wide yatra, and on November 5 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the party – seem to have freed the party of the political indecisiveness it was struggling with for the last few months. Not only has Akhilesh Yadav emerged as the party’s sole face for the upcoming Assembly elections, he has even acquired a key role in the distribution of tickets to party candidates.

Said a senior party leader and a minister in the state cabinet, who did not want to be identified: “It has been decided that the selection of party candidates and the distribution of tickets will be done by a high-powered committee in which Akhilesh will have a major say."

Ticket distribution

The distribution of tickets has constitutionally been the prerogative of the party’s national president, Mulayam Singh Yadav. Shivpal Yadav, his younger brother, who is organisationally the party’s second-in-command as he is president of its Uttar Pradesh unit, had indicated in the past that he would exercise this authority on behalf of the older Yadav.

Ticket distribution had become a major bone of contention between Akhilesh Yadav and his uncle. The chief minister’s demand that he should be given a final say in all election-related decisions of the party and Shivpal Yadav’s bid to use ticket distribution to override his nephew possibly worsened the relationship between the two and brought the family feud to the fore about a month ago.

Days after he sacked several Akhilesh Yadav loyalists from the party, on October 3, when Shivpal Yadav announced nine new party candidates and replaced 17 previously named nominees, the decision touched off a series of events that threatened to cause a vertical split in the party.

Akhilesh Yadav swiftly responded to his uncle’s moves. On October 6, he moved out of his father Mulayam Singh Yadav's home in Lucknow, and shifted to the chief minister’s official residence, which had been lying vacant ever since the younger Yadav assumed office in 2012.

The crisis

Thereafter, the chief minister went on to create a parallel structure in the party. On October 10, he inaugurated the office of the Janeshwar Mishra Trust close to his new home. This office started working as the headquarters of the party faction that Akhilesh Yadav led. It was converted into the chief minister’s election war room, and all of Akhilesh Yadav loyalists who were expelled from the party by Shivpal Yadav were given a place there.

“The situation has changed now,” said the Uttar Pradesh minister. “The ticket distribution will not be done solely by Mulayam Singh Yadav or Shivpal Yadav. Akhilesh Yadav will be the party’s star campaigner, and his suggestions cannot be overruled by the committee that will finalise the list of candidates.”

It could not be ascertained as to who all would be part of this committee, though insiders say that in order to send a message of unity to party workers, Akhilesh Yadav has stopped insisting that his uncle should be kept out of it.

Yet coming at a time when Shivpal Yadav appears to have considerably lost his grip on the Samajwadi Party, the decision to form a panel for ticket distribution is likely to further strengthen the position of Akhilesh Yadav, whose supremacy was already endorsed by the party on November 3 and by several constituents of the Janata Parivar two days later.