Chief minister of India's most populous state ousted in family feud

Indian supporters of Akhilesh Yadav take part in a protest after Yadav was expelled in Allahabad on Dec 30, 2016.
Indian supporters of Akhilesh Yadav take part in a protest after Yadav was expelled in Allahabad on Dec 30, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (AFP) - The chief minister of India's most populous state Uttar Pradesh was expelled from his ruling party by his own father on Friday (Dec 30) following a political family feud that has dominated national headlines for weeks.

Akhilesh Yadav has been locked in a dispute with his father Mulayam Singh Yadav, who is the leader of the Samajwadi Party, and his uncle Shivpal Yadav, a senior party member, ahead of key state elections.

Akhilesh, 43, has been trying to shake off the influence of his father and uncle, finding support instead in his trusted adviser and other uncle Ram Gopal Yadav.

The family conflict came to a head on Friday when 77-year-old Mulayam announced he was expelling his son and Ram Gopal for "weakening the party" he founded in 1992.

"Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has also been removed from the party for six years," Mulayam told reporters in the state capital Lucknow.

"We want to save the party. My intention is not to punish anyone but a lot of effor... went into the making of this party and we must save it," he said with his brother Shivpal beside him.

Mulayam accused Ram Gopal, his cousin, of "ruining Akhilesh's career".

Uttar Pradesh, with a population of more than 200 million, is viewed as a critical political player as the state sends the biggest single bloc of lawmakers to the 545-seat national parliament in New Delhi.

Wrestler-turned-politician Mulayam served three terms as the state's chief minister.

In 2012, Akhilesh became the youngest ever chief minister thanks to his soaring popularity with younger voters, who elected him on promises of more jobs and a greater share in India's economic growth.

Family relations have soured in the run up to the state elections, which are likely in February, with rival members vying for greater control of the party, resulting in several tit-for-tat sackings by Akhilesh and Shivpal of each others' supporters since August.

Mulayam has sided with his brother Shivpal, often humiliating and snubbing his own son in public.

But the move to expel Akhilesh has triggered a wave of support for the chief minister with television images showing scores of people standing outside his residence with posters and shouting slogans against Shivpal.

Akhilesh, whose political future is unclear, has called for an emergency meeting early Saturday.

Political observers have predicted Akhilesh may split from his father's party to form his own camp.