Addressing a gathering in Mainpuri on Sunday, Samajwadi Party member Shivpal Singh Yadav said, “We have formed our own government for the first time, but there are some leaders of the party who are damaging it. Even officers and engineers were not responding to my orders. If land grabbing, corruption and disobedience continue, I will resign from the post and work for the party.” Shivpal was peeved at officers who “don’t listen to him and ignore his orders.” He especially mentioned tehsildars and lekhpals in the context of enabling land-grabbers.
A few days before Shivpal’s threat of resignation, former Chief Minister, party veteran and Shivpal’s elder brother Mulayam Singh Yadav too had warned party workers and leaders who were participating in acts of land-grabbing.
In defending his brother, Mulayam saw a conspiracy etched against Shivpal. He even went after his son – Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav – for allowing land-grabbers a free hand, ignoring party workers and lending his ear to sycophants.
Officers, Mulayam said, were not listening to either the senior ministers or party workers, and the Chief Minister was unable to rein them in.
Those familiar with the Samajwadi Party (SP) know its true colour. It is a party which provides criminals, mafia dons and the corrupt a safe haven. This is why Mulayam’s and Shivpal’s concerns are more a pretence.
Not long ago, these senior party leaders and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had faced flak for the violence that took place at Mathura’s Jawahar Bagh, where the followers of Jai Gurudev had turned squatters on government land.
It was alleged that a senior SP leader had facilitated the squatters’ plan – which was why the district administration turned a blind eye to the sinister activities at the location. But for the Allahabad High Court the squatters would still be there.
A few days ago, another SP leader made a brazen attempt at land-grabbing in the state capital, Lucknow, after keeping the rightful owner of the land in captivity and assaulting him.
Again, in April this year, a member of Legislative Assembly, (MLA) Rampal Yadav’s illegal structures in Lucknow and Sitapur were demolished, not because they were illegal but so as to teach him a lesson since he was planning to vote against the party in the Rajya Sabha and Vidhan Parishad elections.
After the tragic eviction drive at Jawahar Bagh, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) asked the victims of land-grabbing to send their details via email. Since June, the email address – firstname.lastname@example.org – has received nearly 3,000 complaints so far. These details have been forwarded to the respective district officials for redress, it is learnt.
Akhilesh’s relations with his uncle have remained strained for some time, and the latter could be using land-grabbing and disobedience by officials merely as a pressure tactic.
Shivpal is in charge of the party for the state this election year and is believed to enjoy the support of more MLAs than Akhilesh himself. He would be playing a key role in the distribution of tickets for the 2017 assembly elections. Given this situation, and since it was the first time that Shivpal had wielded such a threat, Mulayam had to jump in to douse the fire.
Though it can’t be proved, those familiar with the Akhilesh government’s functioning would vouch for the proposition that “Netaji,” as Mulayam is called, sends instructions directly to the bureaucrats. It is said that sometimes he even summons them to his Vikramaditya Marg residence. No bureaucrat has the temerity to say no to either Mulayam or Shivpal, both of who have almost overriding powers.
So then, what’s the fuss all about?
The first signs of fragility in Mulayam’s family surfaced in December last year (2015) when two Akhilesh loyalists – Sunil Singh Sajan and Anand Bhadauria – were expelled by Shivpal for anti-party activities. A miffed Chief Minister boycotted the Saifai Mahotsav until the two were re-inducted into the party.
The troubling, short-lived merger of Qaumi Ekta Dal (QED) of the jailed mafia don Mukhtar Ansari with the Samajwadi Party deepened the divide. Shivpal wanted the merger as a quid pro quo for the QED’s support in the Rajya Sabha polls and had announced it before the media, his face carrying a smile. Akhilesh, however, refused the merger. It was then called off a day after it was announced, leaving Shivpal embarrassed.
An assertive Akhilesh even sacked Cabinet Minister Balram Yadav, the person who was the intermediary in the merger. Shivpal expressed his anger by skipping the cabinet expansion that followed. However, with the help of Mulayam, Shivpal had his way in having Deepak Singhal appointed as the chief secretary. Akhilesh was opposed to Singhal’s appointment, but had to concede ground to his uncle in this instance.
Shivpal has been facing criticism after a bridge and flyover in Lucknow caved in due to the poor construction quality. The construction was carried out by engineers from Shivpal’s department.
This last Wednesday, Shivpal again did not attend a cabinet meeting chaired by Akhilesh. Vijay Bahadur Pathak of the BJP quipped, “Instead of these antics, why doesn’t Shivpal quit the party?”
Atul Chandra is former Resident Editor, The Times of India, Lucknow. He has written extensively on politics in Uttar Pradesh.
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