Akhilesh Yadav and Shivpal Yadav
Akhilesh Yadav (right) and Shivpal Yadav in happier times.Official website of Shivpal Yadav

The fault lines within the Samajwadi Party (SP), which is currently ruling Uttar Pradesh, became more apparent on Tuesday when party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav replaced his son Akhilesh Yadav as the state unit chief of the SP with his brother Shivpal Yadav. Akhilesh responded by removing his uncle from nearly all ministerial portfolios in his Cabinet.

The tussle between the father and the son has been evident for quite some time, with both engaging in one-upmanship each time there is a point of contention. Now, with the Uttar Pradesh Assmebly elections coming up in 2017, rival parties like the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party or even the BJP and the Congress, besides smaller local parties, will try to take advantage of this rift.

The triggers for the current tussle erupted on Monday. Akhilesh, who is currently the chief minister of UP, has often seen his uncle Shivpal as a threat to the position of power he currently enjoys. On Monday, he removed from his Cabinet two ministers facing corruption charges who are said to be close to Shivpal. He topped it off by transferring the state's chief secretary — another Shivpal loyalist — on Tuesday.

This turned out to be the breaking point for Mulayam, prompting his latest action of replacing Akhilesh with Shivpal as the state party unit chief. It put a question mark on the leadership of the Yadav scion, and whether he would be the chief ministerial candidate in the upcoming Assembly elections.

Akhilesh stripped Shivpal of all ministerial portfolios in the UP Cabinet, except for the one of waste management.

Meanwhile, this is not the first time the father-son duo has tussled over political issues. They have been playing tug-of-war over Shivpal over the past few months, but their rift is much older, and was already out in the open when Akhilesh shunned the Saifai Mahotsav — a special event held at Mulayam's home constituency — late last year after Mulayam had expelled two of his loyalists from the SP over anti-party activities.

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