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It's advantage Akhilesh as fight for party symbol continues

Hectic meetings continued at various residences of Samajwadi Party (SP) supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, and his son, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, on Saturday that further added to the drama in the party in the past few weeks.

Sources say that the prominent leaders in attendance at the meeting at Mulayam’s residence were Ambika Chowdhary, Azam Khan, and Shivpal Singh Yadav. On the other side, there were Prof Ramgopal Yadav, Kironmay Nanda, Dimple Yadav, Dharmendra Yadav, and Naresh Agarwal.

The meeting was all the more urgent as the Election Commission (EC) is all set to decide on which faction — Akhilesh or Mulayam – has the right to the party symbol. The EC has asked both leaders to submit details of the MLAs and other leaders supporting them by January 9.

Speaking to media after the meeting, senior SP leaders from the Mulayam faction, Ambika Chowdhary and Azam Khan, claimed that eventually all would be well within the SP. Their claim was refuted by Ramgopal Yadav, who said that Akhilesh was now ready to make his claim to the bicycle symbol. Ramgopal also claimed to have collected affidavits from 212 MLAs, 56 MLCs and 15 MPs in support of Akhilesh.

Currently, the SP has 229 MLAs, 68 MLCs and 24 Mps. This ongoing feud between the father and the son has left SP leaders demoralised. With the first phase of polling on February 11, senior party leaders are glumly reconciling to the fact that damage to the party’s prospects are inevitable.

“Even if the father and the son come together, hidden forces in rival camps will not shy away from harming the interest of rival candidates. This will harm the party,” confirms a party follower.

He is not alone. Even those whose names have figured in the list of candidates are now feeling the pinch. A candidate whose name figures in the list prepared by Mulayam and his brother Shivpal says glumly: Vinash kale vipirit buddhi (Destruction is inevitable when you start losing your mind).

This candidate, and many others, whose names were final had been working in their constituencies for more than six months. They say they have spent a lot of time and money for their campaigns

“We have spent so much in our campaigning, but today we are facing a big dilemma. Even the party symbol has been frozen,” the candidate said. “If there is a split, we will not know with whom we should go, which symbol we will have.”

All is not lost, however. Party followers believe that should a compromise between father and son be reached, the SP may once again find favour with the electorate. Party leaders point to the fact that Akhilesh has changed the image of the party being anti-English and anti-computers.

Sources also point out that Akhilesh’s image of a strong family man has gone down well with people. The fact that his wife Dimple Yadav, MP from Kannauj, stands in the queue for parent-teacher meetings in La Martinere College, where their son is studying, has been particularly remarked upon.

“She goes there without any security,” marvels a witness.

Another plus for Akhilesh is that the Muslims seem to be with him. Muslims, who had once dubbed Mulayam as ‘Mulla Mulayam’ now seems to prefer Akhilesh, and blame Mulayam, and senior SP leader Mohd. Azam Khan, for polarising voters.

Maulana Khalid Rashid Farangi Mahali, member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, claims that Akhilesh provides a reassuring presence to Muslims in the state and has done a lot for them in the run-up to polls.

“Akhilesh has done real development work for Muslims, his Samajwadi Pension Scheme will help so many women send their children to school,” says the Maulana.

Clearly, the logical and ideal thing for Mulayam to do is to patch up with his son. But the SP leader is facing too many obligations. His dilemma: whether to favour the son from his first marriage or the wife of the son from his second marriage. There are other relations as well, who Mulayam needs to oblige: his younger brother Shivpal, old friend Amar Singh and loyal follower Azam Khan.

SP leaders are still hopeful that there be a patch-up between the father and the son. If that does not happen, the EC’s decision on the symbol will split the party. And that could be the beginning of the end for the SP.

—The writer is an independent journalist