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UP Elections 2017: Akhilesh confident of getting Mulayam onboard amidst seat sharing talks with Congress

A day after the Election Commission stamped its seal of approval on his claim over Samajwadi Party and its symbol ‘bicycle’, UP Chief Minister went into a huddle with his advisors strategising on an alliance with Congress and RLD to prevent BJP’s march to power in the key cow belt state.

On a day of fast paced developments, Akhilesh, having put paid to SP founder Mulayam Singh Yadav’s hopes of retaining control over the party, called on his father at the latter’s residence for a second time in two days and described his ties with him as “unbreakable”. However, treading with caution, Akhilesh camp also filed a caveat in the Supreme Court in case the EC’s decision is challenged there.

With Akhilesh in complete control of the ruling Samajwadi Party after the EC order, hectic activity was witnessed both in Lucknow and the national capital over formation of an alliance with Congress.

While the UP Chief Minister said in Lucknow that a decision on the alliance will be made in a day or two, senior Congress leaders in the national capital went a step ahead saying the “nitty gritty” of the proposed partnership will be decided over the next couple of days.

“The decision on alliance (with Congress) will be taken in a day or two,” Akhilesh told journalists in Lucknow, while his uncle and key party strategist Ramgopal Yadav, who stood behind him in the internecine feud in the SP, hoped a grand secular alliance would be in place for the state assembly election, the process of which kicked off today with the notification being issued for the first phase of polling on February 11.

“I am confident that the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance will form the next government in Uttar Pradesh,” AICC General Secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters in New Delhi. Azad, who is in-charge of party affairs in UP, said it was just a beginning of the alliance process and the nitty gritty would be decided in the next one or two days. At the AICC briefing later, party coordinator for UP Meem Afzal spoke in similar vein. “Congress will have an alliance with Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh. The details of the arrangement will be announced in the next two days,” he said.

Before the poll panel settled the dispute between the warring factions in the Samajwadi Party in Akhilesh’s favour, Mulayam had rejected all suggestions of a tie-up with Congress despite his Chief Minister son having said if the two came together the alliance could win over 300 of the state’s 403 seats. Rendered without a party, Mulayam was learnt to have given a list of about 40 candidates to Akhilesh today when the latter came calling. According to unconfirmed reports, the list did not include the name of Mulayam’s younger brother Shivpal, who headed the SP’s UP unit, and was one of the protagonists in the bitter family feud. Instead, the list reportedly has the name of his son.

“Over 90 per cent candidates in both the lists are common. We will finalise the list of candidates soon,” Akhilesh told reporters during an informal chat at his Kalidas Marg residence.

Akhilesh said his priority is to form a Samajwadi Party government again and promised to take everyone along. “I will take Netaji (Mulayam Singh Yadav) along…my relation with him is unbreakable. I was confident that I will get cycle (symbol). Little time is left. It’s a big responsibility and I will take everyone with us,” he said.

According to SP sources, the party would keep with itself a lion’s share of well over 250 seats. Congress was being offered around 90-100 seats by the SP, which was also said to be trying to rope in Ajit Singh’s RLD. Rashtriya Lok Dal has pockets of influence in western UP which will go polls in the first two phases on February 11 and 15. Ramgopal Yadav and Ghulam Nabi Azad were said to be engaged in talks to iron out differences over seat sharing between the two parties.SP sources said the list of party candidates will be released in a day or two.

There were reports that the three parties could come out with a common minimum programme. Meanwhile, former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who was being projected by Congress as the UP CM candidate, said if the alliance materialises, she would step aside in favour of Akhilesh. Key advisors to Akhilesh, Ramgopal Yadav and Naresh Agarwal, both Rajya Sabha MPs, reached Lucknow this evening and immediately went into a huddle with Akhilesh at his residence to finalise the candidates’ list.

Party sources said the list would be prepared keeping in mind the possible alliance with Congress as nomination for first phase has already begun. Having lost probably the toughest political battle of his life to his son, Mulayam stayed put at his bungalow, hardly a stone’s throw away from that of Akhilesh. Brother Shivpal and a few other loyalists like Ambika Chowdhury met him during the day.