Yadav Vs Yadav? Signs Of A Feud As Akhilesh Yadav Skips Saifai Event

The young Chief Minister's absence at the inauguration of the festival has been seen as a glaring sign of a rift with his father Mulayam Singh.

Saifai: In Uttar Pradesh, this is the ruling Samajwadi Party's biggest annual event. Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav's brother played the drums to signal the start of the "Saifai Mahotsav" in Mr Yadav's native village on Saturday.

A chartered aircraft to ferry VIPs and film celebrities was on standby at the only Uttar Pradesh village with an airstrip, a stadium and a 500-bed hospital. The entire Yadav family was present, with one notable exception - Akhilesh Yadav.

The young Chief Minister's absence at the inauguration of the festival has been seen as a glaring sign of a rift with his father Mulayam Singh.

Sources say Akhilesh Yadav is upset over the expulsion on Friday of two confidants - youth leader Sunil Singh Yadav 'Saajan' and another party leader Anand Bhadauria - without his consent.

The Chief Minister cannot overrule the decision as it came from his father and party chief Mulayam Singh. But sources say what rankles is that the action was recommended by Akhilesh Yadav's uncle and state minister Shivpal Singh Yadav, who also announced the sackings.

It is clear that while sanctioning the expulsions, Mulayam Singh bypassed his son, who is also the president of the party's state unit.

In the past, party elders have intervened and helped the Chief Minister out of tight spots. But this time, Mr Yadav appears to have made a very public statement with his absence at the Saifai festival opening.

On record, the party has denied any dispute at the top.

Senior Samajwadi leader Ramgopal Yadav told NDTV: "The chief minister is busy with work in Lucknow and couldn't make it for the opening."

An organiser of the festival, Dharmendra Yadav, a lawmaker and Mulayam Singh's nephew said: "It is a 17-day festival. The Chief Minister's blessings are with us and he is monitoring the proceedings from Lucknow."

The two expelled men are old associates of the chief minister. Akhilesh Yadav had fielded Anand Bhadauria against Congress' Jiten Prasada in a seat in last year's national election despite objections within. Sunil Singh Yadav was appointed chairman of a corporation and given the status of minister. But he was stripped of the post after pressure from leaders close to Mulayam Singh.

Sources say what has rattled the Chief Minister is the reason given for the expulsion of his close aides; they have been charged with anti-party activities during the recent Panchayat or local body polls.

The Chief Minister also skipped the inauguration of a rural cricket tournament on Sunday - an annual ritual he had started at his ancestral village.

Since coming to power in Uttar Pradesh in 2012, the Samajwadi Party has witnessed friction at the top. Mulayam Singh has publicly criticized his son's government more than once and often taken decisions on subjects that are meant to be the chief minister's domain.

But with state elections due in 2017, an escalation is worrying for the Samajwadi Party.