Uttar Pradesh unit chief of the Samajwadi Party Shivpal Yadav on Friday declared his nephew Akhilesh Yadav the party's chief ministerial candidate for the 2017 Assembly elections in the state. "Akhilesh Yadav will be the next CM, if the party is voted to power. He will be our CM candidate," Shivpal Yadav said at a meeting that the incumbent chief minister skipped despite a personal invitation from his uncle, PTI reported.

Shivpal had invited Akhilesh to the meeting of the Samajwadi Party's city and district units to strategise for the polls next year. Akhilesh, however, met those who attended the meeting separately at his official house. The state party chief had earlier announced that he would pitch Akhilesh's name for the chief minister's post if the party wins the 2017 Assembly election. His move to declare Akhilesh the Samajwadi Party's candidate for the position comes days after the party president and his brother Mulayam Singh Yadav said its MLAs would decide the next chief minister if they were voted to power.

Akhilesh is scheduled to take out a rath yatra in Uttar Pradesh from November 3, the announcement of which led to speculation on whether he would attend the party's silver jubilee celebrations in Lucknow on November 5. He had earlier said they he may have to launch a campaign for the polls on his own.

The alleged family feud was triggered by Mulayam Singh appointing Shivpal the state party chief. The move, which was reportedly prompted by fears of an anti-incumbency vote, did not go down well with the chief minister, who then relieved his uncle of major portfolios in the state Cabinet. Mulayam Singh had to intervene to bring the situation under control. The Yadavs, however, has repeatedly denied any family feud and maintained that the rift is only within the party.