UP Election 2017: Is Samajwadi Party reverting to a pre-Akhilesh Yadav mode?

In politics, especially in Uttar Pradesh, things remain more the same as they seem to change.

This was proved once again as ruling Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav on Wednesday announced a list of 325 contestants for as many Assembly seats for the 2017 election. Coming after the goings-on in the ruling Samajwadi Party over the last one year, the announcement is more of an assertion by the old guard than a reflection of change that was much bandied about when Akhilesh Yadav was made the chief minister in 2012.

 UP Election 2017: Is Samajwadi Party reverting to a pre-Akhilesh Yadav mode?

File of image of Akhilesh Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav. PTI

Mulayam’s announcement came two days after Akhilesh unilaterally submitted a list of names for all the 403 Assembly seats to his father. Before that, state party president and axed minister Shivpal Yadav has released a list containing 175 names, amid frequent changes and amendments. While Shivpal sat beside Mulayam, Akhilesh was away to Jhansi on an official tour. Now that Mulayam has released the list, it can be expected that it will be an official Samajwadi Party document, although further changes cannot be fully ruled out. For the moment, though, the list clearly indicates that the party would rather trust the old guard and go by its pre-Akhilesh moorings.

The announcement also makes it clear that the Samajwadi Party is now no longer interested in any kind of alliance with any party, as Mulayam himself stated.

At the root of the conflict within the Yadav family and the party was the authority to select candidates for the coming election, and both Akhilesh and Shivpal had been claiming that their word should be final in preparing the candidate list. Both, however, had agreed to accept whatever Mulayam would decide. And using this power, Mulayam made it clear that he trusted brother Shivpal’s winning formula more than son Akhilesh’s 'development' plank. The list, thus, ignores many Akhilesh loyalists — although their names may figure in the next list as 78 names are yet to be announced. It also includes the names of at least three individuals with a criminal background, and eight ministers whom Akhilesh had sacked from his team.

The inclusion of Atiq Ahmed, the Allahabad strongman who will now be the party's candidate from Kanpur Cantonment, and Sigbatullah Ansari of the Ansari brothers of the erstwhile Qaumi Ekta Dal, is a signal that Akhilesh’s objections to these names was of little importance to Mulayam and Shivpal. Atiq Ahmed faces over 40 criminal cases including those of murder and attempt to murder.

His recent show of strength in Kanpur was a terrifying experience for the residents of the city as it brought life and traffic movement in the city as well as the Kanpur-Lucknow Highway to a standstill for hours.

Another MLA Rampal Yadav from Sitapur had been expelled from the party in the wake of the panchayat election early this year. An illegal commercial complex constructed by him in Lucknow had been demolished and he had also been arrested for attacking the police. Rampal was recently taken back into the party and now has been given the party ticket. The list also includes the names of OP Singh, Narad Rai, Shadab Fatima, Yogesh Pratap Singh, Raj Kishore Singh, Ambika Chaudhary, Mahendra Aridaman Singh, Shiv Kumar Beria and of course Shivpal Yadav, all ministers who had been sacked by Akhilesh over a period of time.

While 176 members of the Assembly figure on the list, it does not include several pro-Akhilesh ministers and MLAs such as Ram Govind Chaudhary, Pawan Pandey and Arvind Singh Gope. In all, 53 sitting MLAs have been dropped from the list. Incidentally, the name of Aman Mani Tripathi, arrested by CBI in a case related to the killing of his wife, does not figure in today’s list.
Akhilesh’s name, too, is not on the list but he is already a member of the Legislative Council with his tenure lasting till 2018. Mulayam said that Akhilesh was free to contest from any seat he wanted.

Minutes before making the announcement, Mulayam had addressed a gathering of supporters at his residence. He had told them that more than 4,000 people had applied for the party ticket and the final decision had been taken on the basis of many surveys, internal analyses and the winnability of the candidates. He also assured those who had failed to get a party ticket, that they would be adjusted suitably once the party formed the government again.

Amid signs of a pre-Akhilesh era returning to the Samajwadi Party, some questions too have started emerging. Perhaps the events of the coming days and weeks provide answers to these:

-Akhilesh was initially very confident of attaining majority on his own, but had lately started saying that an alliance with the Congress could help the alliance secure more than 300 seats. Was Mulayam was not confident of either premise?

-Akhilesh had tried to take a stand against criminal elements. Does Mulayam not agree, and hence, relied upon his old favourites like Ansari and Atiq whom Akhilesh abhorred?

-Akhilesh had been saying all along that the 'unprecedented' development work initiated by his government would help his party win the election and form the government again. Is it not likely, since Mulayam has said that in case of a victory, the Samajwadi Party legislators will decide who will be the chief minister?

-For the last several days, reports have been making the rounds that the Samajwadi Party has decided to offer 78 seats to the Congress as part of an alliance. Is this why the party has left out this number of seats for which candidates will be announced later?

-In the aftermath of the election announcement, the party will start its campaign in right earnest. Will Akhilesh campaign for tainted candidates or axed ministers?

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Updated Date: Dec 29, 2016 08:22:47 IST