New Delhi, Jan. 3: Mulayam Singh Yadav has disbanded son Akhilesh's core team of four youth leaders regarded as the chief minister's "eyes and ears" and acknowledged as being central to the Samajwadi Party's victory last year.
The swift and surgical operation executed this morning surprised party leaders, including the four, and left the quartet virtually jobless.
Mulayam dissolved four party wings headed by Sanjay Lathar, Anand Bhadauria, Amitabh Vajpayee and Sunil Yadav. The wings are Yuvjan Sabha, Lohia Vahini, Youth Brigade and Chhatra Sabha.
None of the four holds a government post, not even as the head or member of a corporation or a board. "We have been left high and dry. But I suppose that's how parties work when the leaders decide to be ruthless," said a source close to one of the four.
A Samajwadi source explained the reasons for the purge. "These boys were full of beans once. After we came to power, they lost interest in party affairs and became more preoccupied with influence-peddling, swinging contracts for family and friends, pushing transfers and postings. The high-stakes Lok Sabha polls are approaching and we have to rev up our organisation. New blood needs to be infused."
Lathar and the others, in their early thirties, were fixtures on a rath yatra that Akhilesh undertook before the February-March 2012 elections. Their mugs appeared alongside Akhilesh's in posters after the poll victory.
But sources said the underlying message from the shake-up was that Mulayam wanted to reinforce supremacy in the party. Early on in Akhilesh's innings, Mulayam had signalled that he would function as a de facto chief minister.
The septuagenarian pushed through a couple of senior bureaucratic appointments his son had resisted and insisted on the induction of controversial legislators like Raghuraj Pratap Singh (alias Raja Bhaiyya) as ministers. This dulled the burnish Akhilesh sought to give to his political conduct.
A carp in the Samajwadi and the government has been that there is not one, but five, power centres in Lucknow. These are "controlled by proxy and directly" by Mulayam, Akhilesh, Mulayam's brother Shivpal, cousin Ramgopal Yadav, and senior minister Azam Khan.
Mulayam is expected to reconstitute his son's team by mid-January, possibly by January 17 when the Samajwadi national executive meets in Lucknow.
The four young leaders respected the norms of propriety the chief minister expected of them, Samajwadi sources said, but their relatives and friends allegedly took advantage of their perceived proximity to Akhilesh to gain access to ministers and bureaucrats for favours. "The usual complaints started coming in," a source said.
One of them, Lathar, was briefly stripped of his organisational mandate after "serious" charges were levelled against him. But he was reinstated after an internal probe found the allegations "baseless".
Apparently, the four were also promised Lok Sabha election tickets. But barring Bhadauria, tipped to contest against central minister Jitin Prasada, the others didn't make the cut.
Sources said Lathar was given a shot at polls when he was fielded in an Assembly byelection from Mant, near Mathura, in June after the seat was vacated by Union minister Ajit Singh's son Jayant Chaudhary, who resigned after he became an MP. The Trinamul Congress won the election. After that, he was reportedly refused a Lok Sabha ticket from Aligarh.
The sources said the party had a "problem of plenty" now as the poll success lured youths in hordes. "They have big expectations and we have to accommodate them somewhere," a source said.