Samajwadi Party (SP) supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav not only poured water on the dream of stitching together a grand alliance with Congress and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), but also snubbed his son, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, by announcing 325 candidates out of total of 403 for the upcoming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. The list of candidates he released, at a hurriedly convened news conference in Lucknow on Thursday, bore the stamp of Akhilesh’s bete noire—uncle Shivpal Yadav.
Congress leaders in Delhi, however, are still pinning their hopes that Akhilesh, who has been in touch with their party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, will fight back. “Wait, it (the alliance) is still in process. We hope better sense prevails in the SP to fight unitedly against the BJP,” a senior Congress leader told DNA.
SP supremo Mulayam has been quite annoyed with the Congress demanding some 125 seats. Though interlocutors said the party’s bargain had come down to 85 seats, the SP was apparently not ready to part more than 50 seats. It is also believed that besides a large chunk of seats, the Congress was also insisting for the post of deputy chief minister.
Even after Wednesday’s announcement, there are still 78 seats for which the candidates have not been announced, leaving a window of negotiations for an alliance still open. The elections are expected to be held in late February or early March in 2017 along with Punjab and Goa.
Among those who have made it to the SP’s list of candidates is Akhilesh’s notable detractor Atiq Ahmed, who faces 44 serious criminal charges—including that of murder. But 53 other sitting lawmakers, out of the SP’s current 224, have been dropped. Among them are close aides of the Chief Minister like Arvind Singh ‘Gop’, Pawan Pandey, and Kamal Akhtar.
When asked as to where Akhilesh would contest the elections from, Mulayam said, “He can contest elections from anywhere he wants.” Besides Atiq, Akhilesh had also expressed reservations against Sibagtullah Ansari, whose name figures as a candidate from Mohamdabad. Sibghatullah is the elder brother of Muqthar Ansari, again a noted don. Another name which had upset Akhilesh is Aman Mani Tripathi, who was arrested by the CBI in a case related to the killing of his wife. Tripathi’s name, however, did not figure in Wednesday’s list.
Significantly, Mulayam also “ruled out” projecting his son as the chief ministerial candidate.
“SP has no tradition of projecting anyone as its chief ministerial candidate. Some parties do it, and in the process bite the dust. In SP, the legislators elect their leader,” he said replying to a question in this regard.
Mulayam’s announcement to “go alone” also came just days after BSP supremo Mayawati claimed that the BJP was exerting pressure on the SP chief and his family through the Enforcement Directorate, I-T department and CBI to join hands with the Congress so as to “divide Muslim votes” and stop her party from coming to power.
The SP supremo also said that BJP would get a befitting reply from the electorate for demonetization and criticised it for not fulfilling its promises. He also stated that elections would be held before February 28 next year.
Earlier, Akhilesh had submitted a parallel list of 403 candidates, in retaliation to party’s list, comprising largely of his loyalists. This move triggered a fresh feud in the already divided Yadav family.
“It was an attempt to marginalise the chief minister by Mulayam and his uncle Shivpal, by declaring tickets without consulting him. But I am sure better sense in the larger interests of state and the party will prevail,” said Udaybir Singh, SP’s sacked MLC, who continues to be an advisor to Akhilesh.