Lucknow: Utter confusion prevailed in ruling Samajwadi Party camp over the presence of SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav and his brother Shivpal when Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav embarks on his highly-publicised 'rath yatra' on Thursday.
Seen as a showdown or show of strength just two days ahead of another gala event to mark SP's silver jubilee, all eyes are on party patriarch Mulayam and Shivpal, the state unit chief, as their presence or absence would reflect as to how far SP was united before UP Assembly polls early next year.
When Shivpal was specifically asked whether he would be present at the rath yatra flagging off event, he ducked the question adding to the suspense.
"I am engaged in preparations for silver jubilee celebrations. If there is yatra on 3 November, there is silver jubilee show on 5 November," he said, leaving everyone guessing about his participation.
There was no categorical word either on reports that Mulayam will flag off the 'Vikas Sey Vijay Tak Yatra'.
To a question, Shivpal said, "Party workers should read the history of socialism. There is importance of discipline in the party. You have seen that on 24 October those who were not invited, also came to the party meet."
In the light of the statement, Mulayam's presence at the 'rath yatra' will be keenly observed.
"It depends on to what extent Akhilesh is able to convince his father Mulayam to attend the yatra," an SP leader said. Expelled SP MLC Sunil Yadav Sajan, who is close to Akhilesh, told PTI that all arrangements have been made.
"The yatra will be flagged off by 'Netaji' (Mulayam) and senior party leaders including party state president Shivpal Yadav will also remain present," he said.
Sajan, who is also incharge of first leg of the yatra, said at every second kilometre, the CM will be welcomed and he will also address gatherings at various locations. During the yatra, dozens of roadside meetings and a few rallies would be held at different places.
A cavalcade of over 5,000 SUVs and trucks will seek to send a message to the party leadership that 43-year-old Akhilesh is the "most acceptable" face of SP.
The over 60-km yatra route from Lucknow to Unnao is dotted with hoardings, banners and colourful arches to welcome the chief minister.
A hoarding put up by a youth leader close to Shivpal says "Shivpal kahey dil se, Akhilesh ka abhishek phir se" (Shivpal says from his heart to make Akhilesh CM again), while some others only highlight Akhilesh's achievements.
"The hoardings put up by the leaders show the state of confusion in the party. It's visible on roads. We wish this confusion to end with the start of this yatra," a senior SP leader said.
The yatra comes at a time when Mulayam is seeking to cobble together a 'mahagathbandhan' and has sent out invitations to all "secular and like-minded" leaders of various parties like RLD, RJD and JD(U).
Last week, Mulayam and Shivpal had met JD(U) leader KC Tyagi and RLD chief Ajit Singh to invite them to the anniversary bash in Lucknow.
Shivpal had said Lohiaites and followers of Charan Singh should join hands to beat BJP in Uttar Pradesh. Congress' poll strategist Prashant Kishor on Tuesday held a two-hour meeting with Mulayam, who is trying to cobble together an alliance of like-minded parties.
Addressing a meeting at SP office, Shivpal on Wednesday said, "After Bihar, the party had planned a 'gathbandhan' in Odisha also but some people in our party did a conspiracy... I can tolerate my insult but not of 'Netaji' (Mulayam)."
Shivpal said that former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, Ajit Singh and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav will attend the silver jubilee show.
He cautioned those workers "who want to break the party" but did not take any name.
Samajwadi Party, which was initially part of Bihar's grand alliance, had walked out of it after it was offered only a handful of seats to contest the assembly elections there.
The grand alliance of JD(U), RJD and Congress had, however, scripted a glorious electoral victory, defeating the BJP-led NDA.
Shivpal said the party organisation in bigger than the government.
"I have given place in the organisation to workers who struggled for the party and were sidelined in the government," he said, an apparent snipe at Akhilesh.