In a tectonic shift on New Year's Day, Mulayam Singh Yadav was removed as president of the Samajwadi Party he nurtured for 25 years.
A resolution passed at a convention of the SP's national delegates, called by Ram Gopal and Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Agarwal, passed the mantle to his 43-year-old chief minister son Akhilesh Yadav. Mulayam was 52 when he became president of the party on 4 October 1992.
Mulayam, who has been given the ornamental post of advisor and rahnuma (guide), retaliated by expelling Ram Gopal from the party for a third time in the protracted tussle for power. Ram Gopal was first expelled on 23 October last year.
He also expelled the party's vice president Kiranmoy Nanda for presiding over the convention after his fourth meeting with Shivpal on an eventful day.
After a meeting of the party's parliamentary board, Mulayam announced that a meeting of the party's national executive will be held on 5 January. He has also written to the Election Commission, saying the resolutions passed at today's convention were unconstitutional.Also Read: Ring out the old, ring in the new: Mulayam is going, it is advantage Akhilesh
Mulayam's brother Shivpal Yadav, who worked with him to establish the party, wasn't so lucky. He was sacked as the Uttar Pradesh president of SP and charged with anti-party, anti-Akhilesh activities. Naresh Uttam Patel was appointed in his place.The resolution empowered Akhilesh to reconstitute the party's parliamentary board and other organisations.
To ensure that the move to replace Mulayam is not misinterpreted, the chief minister said, "Netaji hamaare pitaji hain aur rahenge. Main netaji ki bahut izzat karta hoon aur kartaa rahungaa (Netaji is my father, I respect him a lot and will continue to do so). No can come between us."
The delegates then raised their hands to pass another resolution removing Shivpal as the state party president. By a third resolution, the villain of the piece, Amar Singh, was thrown out of the SP. The two leaders were charged with sabotaging the party's interests. "They conspired against the party and created a difficult situation for Netaji, my father," said Akhilesh.
Akhilesh recalled the manner in which he was removed as the party's state president last October when Amar Singh had specially arranged a typewriter to type out the letter removing him. "Office se typewriter mangwaayaa thha ki chitthi chhap jaaye (A typewriter was sent for from the office so the letter could be typed)," Akhilesh said, and cautioned that the next two months will be crucial for the party.
Ram Gopal Yadav, the party's general secretary, went to the extent of saying that Shivpal had defied Netaji and distributed election tickets by misusing his name. "They did not want the party to return to power," he said.
The resolutions were moved by Ram Gopal, who has emerged as Akhilesh's main political advisor in his fight against the "conspirators". Kiranmoy Nanda passed the vote of thanks.
Sunday's convention had been declared illegal by Mulayam an hour before it was held at Janeshwar Mishra Park in Lucknow. Mulayam had also declared the convention illegal while expelling Akhilesh and Ram Gopal from the SP on 29 December.
The convention, he said, was being held without his permission and warned that attending it would amount to indiscipline and invite disciplinary action.
The presence of most top leaders - Naresh Agarwal, Kiranmoy Nanda and a host of ministers - suggested Mulayam's threat wasn't taken seriously.
After being axed as the SP state president, Shivpal got into a huddle with a handful of his supporters at the party's office in Lucknow. He's expected to strike back soon.
In the twists and turns in the party that have kept political observers on tenterhooks, Shivpal twice offered to resign as state president on Sunday before the start of the convention. Mulayam, however, refused to accept his resignation. Which makes one wonder about Mulayam's role in the family drama. On Friday, he had expelled Akhilesh and Ram Gopal from the party for six years. But after the chief minister put up a show of his strength on Saturday, Mulayam withdrew the expulsion order in less than 24 hours. It was said that Mulayam withdrew the expulsion order at the instance of Azam Khan, the urban development minister and Amar Singh's bete noir.
A glum-looking Shivpal announced the revocation of the expulsions and later told SP workers, "All is well in the party. All of you go and work hard for the elections."
If this was meant to dissuade Akhilesh from holding the convention, it didn't work with Ram Gopal saying they would go ahead with the convention. They did, too, and that didn't end well for Mulayam and Shivpal.