With all attempts at brokering peace in the ruling SP having come to naught, rival factions led by Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son Akhilesh were today racing against time to enlist support of party MPs, MLAs and delegates to prove majority before the Election Commission.
Seeking to retain the ‘Samajwadi Party’ name and its election symbol ‘cycle’, SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and brother Shivpal rushed to the national capital this morning to furnish details of support he enjoys in the embattled party to the poll panel, while his Chief Minister son stayed put at his official residence here collecting signed affidavits to back his claim of majority support. Akhilesh, who has refused to back down so far despite meeting Mulayam after being urged to do so by peace brokers like minister Azam Khan, SP’s Muslim face, was claimed to have secured signed affidavits of over 200 MLAs and MLCs, insiders said.
SP MP Naresh Agarwal, who is close to the Chief Minister, claimed a majority of the party MLAs, MLCs and MPs were with Akhilesh. He was confident that the EC would allot the ‘cycle’ symbol to the Akhilesh camp. Cabinet minister Ravidas Malhotra, who was present at the meeting, quoted Akhilesh as saying, “Netaji is my father. I have asked him (Mulayam) to give me authority for three months. After returning to power, he may decide whatever he wants.”
Another UP minsiter Shanklal Manjhi, who too attended the meeting, said, “SP is incomplete without ‘Netaji’ but Akhilesh is its face. Without him party is incomplete.” Sources in the Mulayam camp said the party supremo was armed with signed affidavits of MLAs, MLCs and MPs which he would furnish to the EC but their number was not immediately clear. Akhilesh told his supporters, who met him at his 5, Kalidas Marg residence, to gear up for the elections and ensure a landslide for the party. The Election Commission had yesterday announced a 7 phase poll in Uttar Pradesh to be held between February 11 and March 8. The Election Commission has initiated the process for the two warring factions of the Samajwadi Party to prove their majority for getting the party name and symbol. In the 404- member UP Assembly, SP has 229 MLAs. The EC has asked both factions to show strength of MLAs, MPs and MLCs supporting them through signed affidavits by January 9.
Polls will be held in seven phases in Uttar Pradesh on February 11 (73 constituencies), February 15 (67), February 19 (69), February 23 (53), February 27 (52), March 3 (49) and March 8 (40). The announcement of poll schedule has hastened efforts by the two camps to bag the ‘cycle’ symbol. After deposing Mulayam as SP boss, Akhilesh appeared to be consolidating his position further by appointing presidents of several district units in his capacity as the “new SP chief”.
The presidents in Deoria, Kushinagar, Azamgarh and Mirzapur had been removed by Shivpal. Giving ample indications that there was no looking back, a defiant Akhilesh said, “We are going for polls…Will return again.” Hectic back channel moves to broker peace were witnessed in the state capital during the past two days, but all efforts failed to salvage the ruling party from a split.
Interestingly, some old socialists still expected a last minute patch up so that SP could go to polls a united house.