After winning Samajwadi party's 'cycle symbol', Akhilesh Yadav (R) called on father, Mulayam Singh Yadav (L). Photograph:( ANI )
By Anuradha Mukherjee
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav's fondness for bicycles is well-known, so the Election Commission of India's decision to grant the election symbol to the Samajwadi Party (SP) faction led by him must feel like a sweet gift.
But politicians aligned to the faction led by his father, Mulayam Singh Yadav, assert that this is not the end of the battle and that the two factions may ultimately fight it out in the UP polls.
"Now everything, including a joint existence of the two factions in SP, may depend on the Uttar Pradesh polls. If the bicycle symbol were not given to Akhilesh, or if it was frozen, Mulayam Singh would have fielded parallel candidates on all 403 assembly seats, but not now," an SP politician from the Mulayam faction told WION from Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh's capital.
What also looks quite possible now is the much-discussed coalition with the Congress party which is expected to get 89-100 seats in the alliance.
While Akhilesh supporters were clearly happy, but guarded in their response, the gloom in Mulayam's camp was but palpable.
In fact, soon after the victory, Akhilesh rushed to call on his father, Mulayam, in what is being seen as an assertion of his personal relationship with the veteran politician.
Mulayam's supporters were mostly tight-lipped and said they would be able to respond to the development only once the party members discuss matters tomorrow.
However, a politician close to the Mulayam camp said any decision of forging a truce would depend on Netaji "or the leader" as the veteran politician is fondly called.
"Whether the two groups decide to solve their differences will depend on Netaji. People who are being called 'anti-Akhilesh' today are those who followed Netaji. Now if Akhilesh goes into a coalition with Congress party, where will the sitting legislators of SP go? Then Mulayam Singh ji will field those MLAs (members of legislative assembly) from those seats against the Congress," said the SP politician from Mulayam's faction.
"When these sitting SP MLAs are denied tickets from seats that are allotted to Congress, they will definitely present their grievance in front of Mulayam Singh. He will then tell them to contest the polls with his photograph on their posters or on the ticket of his old party, Lok Dal, on the symbol of kisan (farmer). Lok Dal leader Sunil Singh has already offered its national president's position to Mulayam ji and has been quite critical of Akhilesh," he added.
The coalition with the Congress party was also a sore point between the father-son combine.
Congress politician Kapil Sibal represented Akhilesh Yadav's group in the EC in the election symbol case.
"Given the overwhelming support received by Akhilesh's group, EC gave its decision," Kapil Sibal, Akhilesh Yadav's lawyer told the media on Monday.
Former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, who was being touted as the Congress face in the state, had also announced her endorsement of Akhilesh for sometime now.
“I am ready to step away if the Congress decides to go into an alliance with Akhilesh Yadav,” Dikshit said.
The two warring arms of the Yadav clan that controls Samajwadi Party, in power in India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, took their claim to the EC after son Akhilesh and father Mulayam Singh Yadav declared their own lists of candidates for the upcoming assembly polls.
Akhilesh declared majority support among his sitting legislators, something he was able to prove in ECI through affidavits submitted, and literally wrested control of the party from his father who founded it, using state police to seize control of the party headquarters in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh's capital.
However, the Akhilesh camp expressed hope of a reunion of the father and son duo. "The party is united and is with Akhilesh Yadav. It was clear in the meeting of party workers that was held recently," said Rajan Chaudhary of SP, also a state minister. Asked if he saw the ECI decision changing things for his party that looked headed for a split, he hoped: "The difficult situation that had arisen will change. And Mulayam Singh ji is a large-hearted person. He will come around."