Akhilesh seeks power to pick candidates

Lucknow : Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on Friday demanded the “power to distribute party tickets” in the forthcoming assembly elections.

Replying to questions from India TV, Akhilesh Yadav said: “I am ready to return party posts and even portfolios but I must have the power to distribute tickets, because the forthcoming poll is after all a test for me and my party.”

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Asked how he would respond if someone demanded the Chief Minister’s post, Akhilesh Yadav replied: “Probably I will give away that too, provided the one who wants it really deserves it.”

Akhilesh Yadav’s comments came amid a major leadership crisis in the Samajwadi Party, chiefly as a result of a showdown between the Chief Minister and party leader Shivpal Singh Yadav — the son and brother respectively of party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.

On his feud with his uncle Shivpal Yadav, the Chief Minister said: “I am ready to return his portfolios but you are not asking me what I have lost.”

The apparent reference was to Mulayam Singh’s decision to replace Akhilesh Yadav with Shivpal Yadav as the state party chief.

A furious Akhilesh Yadav hit back by taking away plum portfolios held by Shivpal Yadav, bringing the family feud out in the open.

The Chief Minister was emphatic: “No outsiders will be allowed to interfere in our party.”

Asked if he was alluding to Rajya Sabha member and party leader Amar Singh, Akhilesh Yadav simply smiled, an India TV statement said.

Even as Akhilesh Yadav was replying to questions in the show, his father Mulayam Singh announced that sacked Mining Minister Gayatri Prajapati – a Shivpal Yadav protege — would return to the Akhilesh Yadav cabinet.

The Chief Minister said he would abide by his father’s decision. “I will not disobey the instructions of my father.”

Asked whether other ministers who have been sacked would be reinstated, Akhilesh Yadav replied: “I will do whatever our Netaji (supremo) tells us. Nothing more than that.”

The Chief Minister described the completion of the Agra-Kanpur-Lucknow highway, the Lucknow Metro nearing completion, foreign investments in UP, distribution of 18 lakh laptops to students and setting up of new universities and industries as major achievements of his four-and-a-half-year-old government.

Akhilesh Yadav said his government had acted against its own leaders who were found indulging in land grabbing. “We … will continue to do so.”