UP Election 2017: Mayawati will be the biggest beneficiary of an Akhilesh-Mulayam split

Mulayam Singh Yadav's statement on Monday, that he will fight against Akhilesh if he "doesn't listen to him" is a game-changing twist in the intriguing Samajwadi Party drama. If such an eventuality does arise, it could be a crippling blow to SP and even BJP's chances in the upcoming Assembly polls and smoothen the turf for Mayawati's return as chief minister.

Talking to party members while waiting for the Election Commission to decide on the party symbol, the ageing SP patriarch appeared heartbroken and desolate, accusing his son of "hobnobbing with the BJP" at the behest of Ram Gopal Yadav. The shadows have lengthened and the strength has visibly deserted the wrestler, but Mulayam indicated that he has one last, bitter fight left in him even if it is against his own blood.

 UP Election 2017: Mayawati will be the biggest beneficiary of an Akhilesh-Mulayam split

File image of BSP chief Mayawati. PTI

"We will accept whatever the Election Commission decides. I called Akhilesh three times. He dropped in for only a minute, and left even before I started to speak. I am trying my best to save the party and cycle (symbol), and if he (Akhilesh) doesn't listen then I will fight against him," said Mulayam.

The Nasim Zaidi-led three-member EC has reserved its order on the election symbol following a five-hour hearing on Friday. There is a possibility that 'cycle' could be frozen in an interim order. Time is at a premium because the process for filing nominations for the first of the seven phases starts on Tuesday. The Akhilesh faction claims majority support and through a 'national convention' on 1 January, had elected the Uttar Pradesh chief minister as party president and 'elevated' Mulayam to the role of a 'margdarshak'. Mulayam has contested the claims, saying that he remains the president and that the 1 January 'convention' was invalid because Ram Gopal had already been expelled for six years from the party.

On Monday, Mulayam vented his ire at his brother again, blaming him for engineering the split. "My son is playing into someone's hands. He is acting at the behest of Ram Gopal. I appeal to you to extend your support to me," the 77-year-old urged party workers, adding that "Ram Gopal is leaving no stone unturned in order to destroy the party." The septuagenarian's real worry, however, became evident when he expressed his fear that the SP under Akhilesh is being increasingly perceived as anti-Muslim. "The message has been conveyed the people that Akhilesh is anti-Muslim. There are fewer Muslim candidates in his list."

With a population strength of around 19 percent, the Muslims are one of the most crucial pieces of the Uttar Pradesh jigsaw. Under Mulayam, the SP's electoral mathematics have always centred around a consolidation of the Muslim vote bank along with the Yadav votes. An opinion poll conducted in December by ABP-CSDS, the results of which were published in January, put SP ahead with 141-151 seats. According to the survey, demonetisation won't be able to catapult BJP to the driver's seat and it would have to settle for 27 percent of the votes while BSP chief Mayawati will drop to third with 22 percent.

However, this maths was based around an undivided SP. The moment there is a formal split in the party and if the father chooses to take on the son, the 19 percent Muslim votes will split between the factions. Another possibility is that the Muslims may take recourse to tactical voting and may side with Mayawati instead to keep the BJP away.

For the BSP chief who enjoys committed support among the Dalits, a sizable addition of Muslim votes would be enough to take her past the marker in the first-past-the-post voting system. A Dalit-Muslim combination will be too steep even for the BJP to surmount. For the saffron unit, an ideal situation would have been the split in Muslim votes between SP and the BSP which would ensure that none gets the advantage, while the BJP emerges on top with the a combination of upper class and some non-Jatav Dalit votes. If Amit Shah had indeed been betting on such a calculation, he will have to return to the drawing board.

A formal split in the SP with the father taking on son will bring an irrepressible smile to Mayawati's face.

Updated Date: Jan 16, 2017 16:07:33 IST