UP Election 2017: Mulayam Singh Yadav targets Ram Gopal, highlights Akhilesh

The assertion by Mulayam Singh Yadav that he is the national president of the Samajwadi Party and his son Akhilesh Yadav is the state’s chief minister says it all about the long-drawn power struggle in the ruling party in Uttar Pradesh. Mulayam made this announcement at a four-minute press conference in Delhi on Sunday evening a amid loud din and fracas at his residence. In effect, it means what many observers have been saying from day one of the SP power struggle: Mulayam wants to keep the party while wishing Akhilesh to run the government.

But it is not clear how he wishes to keep Akhilesh away from Ram Gopal Yadav — or vice versa — as neither has shown signs of getting away from each other.

With the Election Commission set to examine the evidence presented by the two factions on Monday, it is all but clear that what Mulayam wants: to keep Ram Gopal out of the party-government combination. And he also wishes Amar Singh to remain a part of the party — as was evident from the fact that Amar Singh stood behind him at the four-minute presser.

Mulayam said that Ram Gopal had been expelled from the party for six years on 30 December. Therefore, the so-called national convention called by him on 1 January was illegal. It was at this 'convention' that Akhilesh was named as the national president. Likewise, Mulayam asserted he continued to be the party’s national president. Soon thereafter, Mulayam returned to Lucknow and was accompanied by Shivpal upon his arrival.

File image of Akhilesh and Mulayam Singh Yadav. PTI

File image of Akhilesh and Mulayam Singh Yadav. PTI

In the Akhilesh faction, meanwhile, Ram Gopal continues to make announcements, one of which was that this faction won’t be bothered even if it was not allowed to use the "cycle" symbol as it was the face of Akhilesh that was "a bigger brand" than a cycle. It indicates that even if the party structure and perhaps the symbol remain with Mulayam-Shivpal, the Akhilesh-Ram Gopal faction was ready to jump into the electoral fray on the strength of what Akhilesh claims to be "development" work during his tenure.

It is also noteworthy that earlier in the day, before leaving Lucknow Mulayam visited the Samajwadi Party office on Vikramaditya Marg, and ordered the guards to re-fix nameplates of his own and that of Shivpal as party’s national president and state president, respectively. Incidentally, a parallel party office has been functioning for several months in a building close-by, where leaders and workers loyal to Akhilesh sit and work. It is described as "camp office" of the party and also houses the "Janeshwar Mishra Trust".

Even as the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has released another list, bringing to 401 the total number of candidates named for the 403-member Assembly, the two factions of the Samajwadi Party will have to engage in this exercise afresh after the symbol saga is settled. It is widely expected that if the Samajwadi Party contests the elections as two different outfits, then the faction headed by Akhilesh may ally with the Congress. That would mean a further rejig of the candidate list of this faction.

According to sources, the "cycle" symbol faced the threat of being frozen if the Election Commission was not able to decide before 17 January which of the two factions of the party was the legal claimant of this symbol. This was because the notification for the first phase of Assembly polls is to be issued on this date.

Interestingly, the feud may help Akhilesh cover the failures of his government on the growth, employment and law and order fronts by claiming that he was not allowed to work by those elements from whom he has now distanced himself. This, in fact, could be a clever move to get rid of the anti-incumbency sentiment as he had been creating a perception that he had been burdened by too many power centres. This is the same allegation which his detractors in other parties have been levying upon him for the last five years. Now, he could portray himself as a leader who could — if given another chance — usher in a new era in the state since he was no longer under the influence of those elements.

And Mulayam, by proclaiming that he is the party president and Akhilesh is the chief minister, may have apparently tried to strengthen this perception by appearing to reassure the SP supporters — especially Yadavs and Muslims — that he was behind his son.

Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), meanwhile, are saying more loudly than ever that the entire power struggle in the Samajwadi Party has been "scripted" to deflect attention from the governance failures during the last nearly five years. "The courts had to intervene and stay a large number of decisions including recruitments in police and of teachers, appointment of Lokayukta, appointment of the chairman of the UP Public Service Commission, withdrawal of terror charges against certain people etc. Despite this, the Samajwadi Party government has been claiming that a lot of development work has been done in this regime. Most of the works that have been inaugurated are incomplete, including the Lucknow-Agra Expressway," said a BJP spokesman. The BSP, too, has been saying that the feud in the SP was a power struggle and the government was trying to distract the people from its anti-people policies.

Published Date: Jan 09, 2017 08:20 AM | Updated Date: Jan 09, 2017 08:20 AM

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