The power struggle between uncle and nephew in the Samajwadi Party seems to be reaching its endgame. A month after the party was divided into two rival camps, one supporting by Akhilesh Yadav and the other uncle Shivpal Yadav, the young Uttar Pradesh chief minister seems to have moved up the ranks and could be on his way to taking over the party, while senior leader’s power seems to be on the wane.

Though Shivpal Yadav is still the president of the party’s state unit, there is a growing perception that Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has started moving away from him and closer to his son, Akhilesh Yadav, even though he had publicly condemned the chief minister’s decision to sack his uncle from the state cabinet on October 23.

Mulayam Yadav’s shift in stance, which is considered crucial in determining the power balance in the party, was a result of the efforts of old hands in the party Beni Prasad Verma and Reoti Raman, said party officials. “The two veterans, like most of the party legislators and Parliamentarians as well as the majority of cadre on the ground, consider Akhilesh Yadav as natural successor of Mulayam Singh Yadav,” said a senior Samajwadi Party leader who did not wish to be identified.

Signs of change

The first concrete result of these efforts was the re-induction of Akhilesh Yadav supporter Ramgopal Yadav into the Samajwadi Party on Wednesday. Ramgopal Yadav, the party’s general secretary and spokesperson, had been sacked by Mulayam Yadav, his cousin, for six years on October 23 on charges of anti-party activities, the same day that Akhilesh Yadav moved to oust his uncle from the cabinet. These developments threatened a vertical split in the ruling party just months ahead of the crucial Uttar Pradesh polls next year, dividing it into two factions.

Ramgopal Yadav’s return to the party is widely seen as a victory for Akhilesh Yadav’s camp. In response, Shivpal Yadav had no choice but to put on a brave face. “The decision is taken by Netaji (Mulayam Singh Yadav) and I will always support his decision,” he was quoted as saying.

Party officials said that the Samajwadi Party chief did not consult Shivpal Yadav before taking the decision. But Mulayam Yadav did not stop here. On Saturday, upon his son’s intervention, the party supremo met some of the youth leaders and legislators who had been expelled by Shivpal Yadav in September for alleged indiscipline. This came days after Akhilesh Yadav had stripped his uncle off key ministries after his father removed him as state party chief and appointed Shivpal Yadav instead. The leaders were considered close to Akhilesh Yadav, who has been actively involved in developing the party’s youth wing.

According to party officials, these leaders apologised to Mulayam Yadav and pleaded with him for a fresh chance to work for the party. In this instance too, party officials said, Shivpal Yadav was not kept in the loop.

“Mulayam Singh Yadav talked to us for almost an hour and assured that he would look into our request,” said a youth leader who was part of the contingent.

Fading fortunes

The turn of events does not augur well for Shivpal Yadav who had been led by Mulayam Yadav to believe that he would enjoy a central position within the organisation even as Akhilesh Yadav would head the government. That Akhilesh Yadav enjoys a lot of support within the party, especially among the youth, had started to become clear after the rift between the two. Ramgopal Yadav’s return to the party and the likely reinstatement of the other expelled leaders will only add to his strength.

If Shivpal Yadav’s proximity to Mulayam Yadav, through which he draws most of his power, dwindles further, it may threaten his post of state unit president and have a devastating effect on his position in the Samajwadi Party.