In an open rebellion that could split the ruling Samajwadi Party, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on Thursday night “declared” his own candidates for 235 seats against the official list announced by his father and SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav for the upcoming assembly polls.
The list of names was made available on social media by party MLAs who failed to get a ticket in the official list on Wednesday.
Prominent among those figuring in the list are ministers Arvind Singh Gope, Pawan Pandey and Ram Govind Chaudhary, who are the hardcore Akhilesh loyalists denied ticket by Mulayam.
The candidates were “declared” hours after Akhilesh held a meeting with his loyalists, including MLAs, who were left out of the list of 325 announced by Mulayam on Wednesday.
In a related development, Shivpal announced second list of 68 candidates late Thursday night.
With this, Samajwadi Party has declared the official list of candidates for all but 10 of the 403 assembly seats.
The chief minister had earlier in the day held a meeting with his loyalists, including MLAs, who have been denied tickets. Afterwards, SP MLA Indal Singh said, “Akhilesh is likely to announce his own list of candidates.”
These candidates were likely to contest on a separate symbol, other than SP’s ‘Cycle’ symbol, paving the way for a wide split in the party grappling with dissensions and unprecedented feud at a time when the crucial polls were knocking at the door.
Thursday’s showdown, the worst in the last few months, reached a flashpoint after Mulayam publicly snubbed his son by announcing a list of candidates that created bitterness in the pro-CM camp, prompting the upset chief minister to take up the matter with the SP supremo to convey his strong displeasure over the choice of names.
“The chief minister called us. He instructed us to go to our respective constituencies and prepare for the elections,” Indal Singh, SP MLAs from Malihabad, said after Akhilesh today met legislators denied ticket.
On a day of hectic political developments, Akhilesh met the disgruntled MLAs at his 5-Kalidas Marg residence on Thursday morning and drove straight to Mulayam’s residence to convey the belligerent mood of those who did not get renomination.
Akhilesh was again closeted with his close confidants soon afterwards to decide the next course of action, while Mulayam summoned Shivpal to gauge the mood of rebels.
“We will go to our constituencies, work hard, and again make Akhilesh our CM,” said another MLA, Pawan Pandey, whose ticket was cut. Pandey, although expelled from SP, continues to be a minister in the Akhilesh government.
“We will contest the upcoming elections, come what may,” said a defiant MLA Atul Pradhan.
“The chief minister has done a lot for the development of the state and we will contest and win in his name,” he said.
In a new twist to the day-long high drama, Mulayam’s cousin and SP General Secretary Ramgopal Yadav said many in the party do not want to see Akhilesh as chief minister again.
“But, the fact remains that people of the state want him back as CM,” he claimed.
The factional feud in the Samajwadi Party came out in the open a day after Mulayam declared candidates for 325 of the 403 assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh and ruled out projecting Akhilesh as the chief ministerial candidate.
Hectic political activities began right from the wintry cold morning with party leaders gathering outside residences of Akhilesh and Mulayam. A big crowd also assembled outside state SP chief Shivpal Yadav’s residence.
The list, which includes 176 sitting MLAs, has left out several pro-Akhilesh ministers, including Ram Govind Chaudhary, Pawan Pandey and Arvind Singh Gope, and does not carry names of over 50 sitting MLAs.
Besides, 10 ministers, including Shivpal, sacked by the chief minister over the past few months have got tickets. These former ministers were in open defiance of Akhilesh and it paid off.
Within hours after release of the list, which bore clear stamp of Mulayam and Shivpal, Akhilesh who was away in Bundelkhand on Wednesday, had said he would take up the choice of candidates with the party chief.
“The list does not include names of certain candidates who are sure to win. I will take it up with the SP chief and tell him that some of them have done really good work and they should be given tickets,” an upset Akhilesh had said on Wednesday night.
In a late night tit-for-tat action, the Chief Minister struck back sacking two Shivpal loyalists — Surabhi Shukla, vice-chairperson of UP Awas Vikas Parishad and her husband Sandeep Shukla from the post of advisor of Rajkiya Nirman Nigam. Sandeep has been fielded from Sultanpur Sadar seat.
Soon after returning to the state capital from Bundelkhand, Akhilesh had decided to convene a meeting of party leaders to listen to their “grievances”.
Mulayam clearly ignored Akhilesh’s objections to certain names, like Sigbatullah Ansari, brother of jailed gangster Mukhtar Ansari, and Atiq Ahmed who faces over 40 criminal cases including of murder.
The list also included tainted minister Gayatri Prajapati, whose sacking and re-induction as minister exposed factional fight in the ruling party.
The SP supremo also overruled Akhilesh on the issue of pre-poll alliance by declaring that the party will have no alliance with anybody. He even refused to project a chief ministerial candidate, dealing a serious blow to his son at a time when polls are to be announced very soon.
Out of the 325 names announced by Mulayam, 218 tally with the panel submitted by Akhilesh to the SP chief, but 107 names do not match with the list given by the chief minister, indicating their sharp differences.
The list of candidates announced by Mulayam included those from 176 seats represented by SP in the outgoing assembly, while 149 candidates were declared from constituencies where the party did not have an MLA.
Candidates for the remaining 78 constituencies are to be announced later leaving a small window for some adjustments to avoid perhaps the final showdown between father-son duo before the elections, a party insider said.