Dealing a severe blow to Mulayam Singh Yadav, the Election Commission today gave the symbol ‘Bicycle’ to the faction headed by Akhilesh Yadav, recognising it as the Samajwadi Party that came as a major boost to the Chief Minister ahead of assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh. A mere look at the figures of supporting MLAs, MLCs and MPs, National Executive members and National Convention delegates “will evidently demonstrate that Shri Akhilesh Yadav enjoys overwhelming majority support, both among the organisational and legislative wing of the party”, the EC said in its order that was reserved on Friday.
The verdict by the three-member Election Commission headed by Nasim Zaidi came on the eve of the filing of nominations when parties will have to give the requisite forms authorising use of symbol to contest the elections.
The EC had reserved the order on January 13 after hearing both the sides for over five hours.
The order set off jubilation in the Chief Minister’s camp with hordes of supporters marching to his residence and breaking into celebrations, bursting fire crackers and dancing to the beat of drums.
Welcoming the decision, SP General Secretary Ram Gopal Yadav, Akhilesh’s uncle and the main strategist of his group, expressed the hope that a grand secular alliance will be formed to fight the elections, an apparent reference to a tie-up with Congress and some other outfits.
“As a logical consequence of the above finding and applying the test of majority approved by the Supreme Court in the case of Sadiq Ali and consistently applied by the Commission thereafter in all cases of disputes in recognised political parties arising before it from time to time for determination in terms of para 15 of the Symbols Order, the Commission hereby answers the issue number 2 by holding that the group led by Shri Akhilesh Yadav is the Samajwadi Party and is entitled to use its name and its reserved symbol ‘Bicycle’ for the purposes of Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment Order, 1968),” the EC said in its 46-page order.
The Commission noted that Akhilesh’s faction had filed the affidavits of 205 of the 228 MLAs, 56 out of 68 MLCs, 15 out of 24 MPs, 28 out of 46 National Executive members and 4400 out of 5731 National Convention delegates which accounted for total delegates of 4716 out of 5731.
The order said Mulayam Singh’s side did not file any affidavit of MPs or MLAs or any delegates claiming allegiance to it with the SP supremo maintaining that there was no split in the party needing determination of a dispute.
The Commission referred to a contention by Mulayam’s side that the affidavits filed by Akhilesh’s group do not contain averment that they were sworn without any fear, favour or influence as needed and said except for the “above vague allegation”, the group did not file any affidavit from any member despite repeated opportunities given to it.
“… Neither filed any affidavit from any member nor indicated even the name of one member whose affidavit was considered by him to be suspect or questioned the above numbers claimed by Shri Ram Gopal Yadav either on 13 January, 2017 at the time of hearing or at any time thereafter,” the order said.
It also mentioned that while the counsel for the Mulayam group wanted to make a mountain of a molehill by referring to a typographical mistake in the affidavits of the Akhilesh group, the counsel had no reply when it was pointed out that its leader Amar Singh had said in the concluding para of his affidavit that “I refute my point on the illegibility of January 1, 2017 convention of Samajwadi Party and unconstitutionality of their resolution thereby.
The seven-phased polls in the state begin on February 11.
The order came within a fortnight of Akhilesh being anointed the national president of the party. A jubilant Ramgopal Yadav said the EC took the right decision as the Mulayam camp did not have any supporting documents to claim symbol and party name. “The Chief Minister is very happy,” he said. About party’s plans for an alliance with Congress in the state for the coming elections, he said, “The party president will be deciding it. I hope it will happen.” As soon as he got the news, Akhilesh went to meet his father to seek his blessings.
Interestingly, the EC announcement came hours after Akhilesh supporters put up his brand new name plate at the SP headquarters that read “Akhilesh Yadav, Party President” strategically positioned directly under his father’s nameplate which mentions Mulayam as “Party President”.
With the Election Commission allotting the ‘cycle’ symbol to the Akhilesh Yadav-led faction of the Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav on Monday advised Mulayam Yadav to let bygones be bygones and give Akhilesh his blessings. Speaking to ANI, Lalu said that the Election Commission has finally put an end to the prolonged feud in the party today with a crystal clear ruling announcing Akhilesh as the leader of the party.
‘I congratulate Akhilesh and appeal to Mulayam, that this is the election of the nation and not just of the state. There are many out there waiting to take advantage of the feud within the party. Don’t wait a minute and give Akhilesh your blessings and head out to campaign to show there is no division,’ he added.
Warning that the nation will not survive at the hands of the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) if the SP loses the polls, Lalu further advised party founder Mulayam to put an end to the feud once and for all.