The Samajwadi Party on Saturday celebrated its 25th anniversary and launched its election campaign for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls in Lucknow. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and uncle and state party chief Shivpal Yadav put up a united front, along with party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. However, it did take much time for the party to make the fissures visible.

While Shivpal Yadav, in his opening address took a dig at nephew Akhilesh when he said, “No matter how much you insult me, no matter how many times you dismiss me, I know that I have done good work.” He, however, withdrew himself from the race to become the chief minister. “I want to tell popular CM Akhilesh that whatever sacrifice you want from me, I will give. I never want to become CM," he added.

The state SP chief had recently been relieved of his Cabinet portfolios for the second time in two months amid infighting in the party. He said, “Some people achieve things because of their luck, others have to work hard for it. Some people can simply inherit success, while some people sacrifice themselves and still don't get anything.”

Akhilesh Yadav in response said while he was “given a sword”, he was expected not to use it. He added that he would do everything to bring the party back to power in the state elections.

The event was attended by Janata Dal (Secular) leader and former prime minister HD Deve Gowda, Ram Jethmalani, and Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad Yadav. In his address, Lalu Yadav attacked the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre, and said the BJP was “stifling democracy”. “What is the use of a 56-inch chest if you can't control the situation in Jammu and Kashmir?” he said, referring to the unrest that has pervaded the state since security forces shot down Burhan Wani, a Hizbul Mujahideen militant, on July 8.

The RJD chief also hinted at the possibility of an alliance. "We are here to strengthen Samajwadi Party. We have chased away BJP in Bihar. Just like jackal is chased away we will chase away BJP from UP too," said Lalu Prasad Yadav. The SP has reportedly reached out to leaders in Delhi regarding alliances, but none has been announced yet. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who was expected to attend, did not come.

The SP feud

The Samajwadi Party has been attempting to project a show of unity following infighting, and put up a united front at Akhilesh Yadav's Vikas Rath Yatra on Thursday. At that event, Shivpal Yadav, who has had his differences with his nephew, endorsed Akhilesh publicly. “I would want to wish Akhilesh all the best. Hope he brings back the SP government in Uttar Pradesh.”

The infighting in the party had been triggered by Shivpal Yadav being appointed the state chief in September. The move, which was reportedly implemented because of fears of an anti-incumbency vote, did not go down well with Akhilesh Yadav, who had then relieved his uncle of major portfolios in the Cabinet. Mulayam Singh Yadav had to intervene to bring the situation under control. The chief minister’s supporters are reportedly functioning independently from a separate office in Lucknow.