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SP: Chances of reconciliation dim father-son feud

The battle royale between father Mulayam Singh Yadav and son and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to ride the “cycle”, ahead of the elections in UP, is entering a decisive phase.

Despite the efforts of some senior leaders, hopes of a truce between the warring factions of Samajwadi Party (SP) has receded, with the EC also initiating the process to decide about the allocation of the partys symbol.

In the 404-member UP Assembly, SP has 229 MLAs. The EC has asked both factions to show a strength of the MLAs, MPs and MLCs supporting them through signed affidavits by January 9. In Lucknow, Akhilesh, on Thursday morning, called a meeting of MLAs and MLCs at his official residence.

The meeting was attended by 214 MLAs, including some who were till now in the rival camp. Even senior minister Azam Khan, who was trying his best to broker peace between the father and the son, turned up at the CM’s residence to muster support for him.

It is believed that 190 sitting MLAs have explicitly supported him by signing affidavits and authorised him to produce them before the EC that his faction was a real claimant of the party symbol and party organisation. During the meeting, the Chief Minister is understood to have discussed key issues after the declaration of poll dates and also the steps to be taken in the current political scenario.

On the other hand, Mulayam arrived in Delhi to furnish details to the EC as to why his faction should retain the ‘cycle’ symbol. Mulayam’s aides insist that they have many signed affidavits of MLAs, MLCs and MPs which they would furnish to the EC. But they didn’t disclose the number of signed affidavits.

Aides of Akhilesh are still hoping for a reconciliation between him and his father. Cabinet minister Ravidas Malhotra quoted Akhilesh as saying, “Netaji (Mulayam) is my father. I have asked him to give me authority for three months. After returning to power, he may decide whatever he wants. Another leader also said that the party is incomplete without Netaji, but Akhilesh is its face and without him too, the party may not win elections.

In Delhi, the Congress is also waiting for the EC’s decision before it thinks about an electoral alliance with Akhilesh’s faction. According to an internal assessment, contesting separately will divide the Opposition’s vote and help the BJP in UP.

Despite Rahul Gandhi’s aggressive month-long campaign, party leaders do not think the Congress can win comfortably on its own. Sources say that the Congress is persuading the SP to give at least 100 seats to them. Then, former Union minister Ajit Singh of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) is also lobbying to get 20-25 seats, leaving nearly 280 seats for the SP to contest.

Being the ruling party, the SP is already facing the anti-incumbency factor. However, party leaders have pinned their hopes on Akhilesh to win the elections. For this, they seem prepared to jettison Akhilesh’s father — at least for the moment.