Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh on Saturday suspended party MLC Udayveer Singh for six years. Singh’s removal comes a day after he wrote a letter to the SP president in which he accused Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s stepmother Sadhna of practising black magic on him (Yadav).

In his letter, Singh alleged that Shivpal Yadav and Sadha were jealous of Akhilesh Yadav’s popularity as chief minister. He also added that the SP needed to revoke the expulsion of youth leaders who protested against Shivpal Yadav’s appointment as state party chief, adding that Akhilesh was the incumbent party’s most credible leader. Singh’s letter drew criticism from other member of the part. SP leader Ashu Malik had said that people writing such letters were not “even worth 500 votes”. “Any attempt to humiliate Netaji (Mulayam) will not be tolerated,” Malik had said.

However, hours after Singh’s letter was made public, Shivpal Yadav endorsed Akhilesh Yadav as the party’s chief ministerial candidate. "Akhilesh Yadav will be the next CM, if the party is voted to power. He will be our CM candidate," he said at a meeting of the party's city and district units to strategise for the polls next year.

Rumours are rife that the infighting within the party in the run-up to state Assembly elections next year has led to the chief minister’s supporters functioning independently from a separate office in Lucknow. The alleged family feud was triggered by party president Mulayam Singh Yadav appointing Shivpal, his brother and Akhilesh’s uncle, the state party chief. The move, which was reportedly implemented because of 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 Yadav had to intervene to bring the situation under control.