Uttar Pradesh’s Samajwadi Party chief Shivpal Yadav on Sunday expelled senior leader Ram Gopal Yadav from the party, as well as member of the legislative council Arvind Pratap Yadav and former panchayat leader from Saifai, Akhilesh Kumar Yadav (who is also Ram Gopal’s nephew), reported The Telegraph. Both are apparently close aides of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav's. Ram Gopal Yadav had also criticised the removal of Akhilesh Yadav as the party chief last week, when he was replaced by his uncle Shivpal Yadav.

The move comes amid a crisis in the party, as Akhilesh Yadav and his uncle Shivpal Yadav appear to battle for power in the state ahead of Assembly elections scheduled for next year. Akhilesh Yadav had taken away Shivpal Yadav’s cabinet portfolios last week after Shivpal replaced him as the party’s state chief. Shivpal Yadav then resigned from the party and state government, but was returned his portfolios after party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav intervened. Mulayam Singh had refused to accept his brother Shivpal’s resignation.

Party state secretary SRS Yadav said Arvind Pratap was removed from the MLC for making “derogatory comments” about Mulayam Singh, and for indiscipline and being involved in anti-party activities. Akhilesh Kumar was also sacked for indiscipline and anti-party activities. Arvind Pratap Yadav, however, denied the allegations. He told The Indian Express, “All these charges are baseless. I respect Netaji (Mulayam) and I could never speak against him. I have been expelled for some personal reasons.”

Shivpal Yadav has also told the party’s state spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary (who is also close to Akhilesh Yadav) to “to stop sitting in the spokesperson’s chamber”, an official told The Telegraph. Akshay Yadav, Ram Gopal’s son and Firozbad MP, has criticised the move to expel the three men from the Samajwadi Party.