Miffed Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav came out late on Thursday with his own list of 235 Samajwadi Party candidates for next year’s assembly polls, triggering speculation of a split in the party besieged by a bitter family feud.
The move is viewed as a tit-for-tat response from the 43-year-old son to party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, who declared candidates for 325 of the 403 assembly seats the day before and ruled out projecting Akhilesh as the candidate for the chief minister’s post.
The state’s youngest chief minister has been engaged in an intense power struggle with the ruling family’s elders, especially uncle Shivpal Yadav , who enjoys the backing of his brother Mulayam.
But hours after Akhilesh’s move, SP state unit president Shivpal released the party’s second list of 68 candidates. The list featured Akhilesh aide and legislator Abhishek Mishra, who has a difficult choice to make -- whether to go to the Shivpal camp for the SP-authorised ticket or remain in Akhilesh camp.
Akhilesh’s parallel list contains all the legislators loyal to him, such as Ram Gobind Chaudhary who was not among Mulayam’s nominees. It also contains names from Mulayam’s list, including two ministers he had sacked —-- Raja Mahendra Aridaman Singh and Manoj Paras.
Akhilesh drew up his own list of 403 candidates on Sunday and sent it to Mulayam, bypassing Shivpal.
But the party chief appeared to have sided with his brother, denying tickets to at least three top pro-Akhilesh ministers Arvind Singh Gope, Ram Govind Chaudhary and Tej Narayan Pandey or Pawan Pandey.
Also, he ignored Akhilesh’s objections to names such as Sigbatullah Ansari, the brother of jailed gangster Mukhtar Ansari and Atiq Ahmed, who faces over 40 criminal cases. The Akhilesh list left out Ahmed and murder accused Aman Mani Tripathi.
The chief minister didn’t formally release his list as he is not the party’s national president or the state chief to declare candidates for elections.
“The chief minister asked us to go to our constituencies and begin poll preparations. He said his efforts are on,” said an MLA who attended a meeting that Akhilesh called before declaring his list.
Both camps held a series of meetings during the day. Akhilesh gathered his flock at his home and went out for an hour to meet his father. Shivpal also joined them, but the outcome was not clearly known.
“Shivpal and Mulayam have softened their stand on Chaudhary and Gope, but they are against taking back Pawan Pandey and giving him a ticket,” a source said.
Pandey was expelled from the party at the peak of the Yadav family feud in October.
In a new twist to the day-long drama, Mulayam’s cousin and SP general secretary Ramgopal Yadav said many leaders in the party do not want to see Akhilesh as the chief minister again. “But, the fact remains that people of the state want him back as CM,” news agency PTI quoted him as saying.