UP Election 2017: Samajwadi Party stands to lose more after alliance with Congress

With complete control over the Uttar Pradesh government, the party and its affairs, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav now faces a crucial but essential test of leadership — scotching rebellion and appeasing constituents. During the intra-family and intra-party conflict that dragged on for the past six months, Akhilesh managed to emerge the victor with more than just a little help and nudge from his father Mulayam Singh Yadav. But now the worthy son has to handle whatever comes his way — all by himself.

After the pre-election alliance with the Congress was announced on the evening of Sunday 22 January, the Samajwadi Party camp was in a jubilant mood, but the price for the accord has to be paid more by the SP than the Congress. The formula of SP-298 and Congress-105, arrived at after weeks of closed door meetings ultimately involving none less than Priyanka Gandhi, is starting to cause heartaches within the party.

The SP has already released two lists of its contestants, containing 268 names, and thus only 30 more names are to be announced as per the seat-sharing pact. However, since it was not revealed which 105 seats were to be left for the Congress, there is clamour among the SP contestants whose names have already been announced to ensure that their names remain on the list. The confirmation and subsequent decision has to be quick since the nomination for the first phase of polling (11 February) ends on 24 January.

Already, the first few who were denied tickets have left the SP. These include veteran Mulayam loyalist and former minister Ambika Chaudhary who joined the Bahujan Samaj Party on 21 January. On the same day, three more MLAs — Ashish Yadav from Etah, Rampal Yadav from Biswan (Sitapur) and Ramveer Singh from Jasrana (Firozabad) resigned from the party. These are likely to contest as Lok Dal candidates.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav with Mulayam Singh Yadav, Dimple Yadav at party office in Lucknow on Sunday. PTI

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav with Mulayam Singh Yadav, Dimple Yadav at party office in Lucknow on Sunday. PTI

According to SP sources, at least 40 names in the existing SP list are likely to be changed in the aftermath of the seat identification and adjustment with the Congress. The exercise is already on and the announcements could be made latest by tomorrow.

The impact of the denial of party ticket for a candidate whose name figured on Akhilesh Yadav’s list some days ago can well be imagined. According to the campaign manager of a candidate in Lucknow, it would mean more than a year’s effort and expenditure going waste. It couldn’t always be possible to ensure a ticket from another party at the last moment, this source admitted.

Similarly, many SP leaders including ministers and legislators, who owe their political identity to Mulayam Singh Yadav, are feeling jittery whether they are in the election fray or not. Ever since the Election Commission ruled in favour of Akhilesh Yadav for the party’s name and symbol, the sense of uneasiness among such people has been growing. That was the time when reports of Mulayam Singh Yadav moving on to the Lok Dal as its president had also surfaced, and it was hinted that all Mulayam loyalists could follow suit. However, Mulayam has not opened his cards yet. He skipped the SP manifesto release function, preferring to reach the venue after the programme was over. He has not yet confirmed whether, as ‘Patron’ of Samajwadi Party, he will join the election campaign. And he has also not yet given any clear signal to his loyalists on their future course of action.

The candidature of Aparna Yadav from Lucknow Cantonment constituency is another case in point. Her name had been announced by Shivpal Yadav months ago, but it has not yet been announced by Akhilesh-led SP. Interestingly, the sitting MLA from this constituency is Rita Bahuguna Joshi, who joined the BJP after quitting the Congress some time ago. Now, the BJP has announced her name as its candidate from this constituency. According to a possible formula, a Congress nominee could be named on this seat that will obviously have SP support as per the alliance terms. Then will it mean SP campaigning against Mulayam Singh Yadav’s daughter-in-law? Or Aparna’s ticket could be changed to some place elese?

There are many such candidates across the state who have been preparing their ground for the election but now face uncertainty over their candidature. According to another source close to Mulayam, it could be possible that he is keeping his loyalists in a state of confusion so that in the mean time Akhilesh can embark on his campaign. Those left out of the list would then have little option other than stay at home and sulk. That such elements could also cause damage to the official SP candidates in respective areas is a possibility that has to be acknowledged but according to sources, the Samajwadi Party can deal with such elements.

Interestingly, Akhilesh’s ascension to the top of SP was possible to a great extent because of the ‘rebellion’ among Mulayam loyalists. Now, the same people would like to be appeased. Another example is that of senior party leader Naresh Agrawal’s son Nitin who has been given a ticket from Hardoi in the Akhilesh list. Interestingly, a day ago there had been persistent rumours that Naresh Agrawal was joining the BJP. On Monday, Naresh Agrawal issued a denial that he was not miffed and he was not joining the BJP. Is it the case of a father ensuring the ticket to his son?

Published Date: Jan 24, 2017 16:45 PM | Updated Date: Jan 24, 2017 16:45 PM

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