Another patch-up bid between the warring factions of the Samajwadi Party fell flat on Tuesday as even after a three-hour meeting, CM Akhilesh Yadav and party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav failed to make peace.
Both the factions, said sources, had submitted letters to the poll panel, staking claim to the party name and the election symbol – a bicycle, the clearest indication yet that a reconciliation was unlikely in the Uttar Pradesh’s ruling party.
Uttar Pradesh and four other states are due for elections, the announcement could be coming any day now.
Battered by the power struggle between Akhilesh and his uncle Shivpal, the party saw a ray of hope when the 43-year-old chief minister drove down to his father’s residence in the afternoon.
Suddenly there was talk of a peace formula though there was no word from either faction. But after three hours, sources said, the talks had failed.
Mulayam, sources said, refused to revoke expulsion of cousin Ramgopal, who has backed Akhilesh in the battle for control of the party.
Akhilesh, who took control of the party on Sunday after ousting Mulayam at an “emergency national convention”, was not ready to give back the state unit to Shivpal. The CM also didn’t want parliamentarian Amar Singh in the party.
Decisions to expel Singh and sack Shivpal as the state party chief were also taken at the convention, which was called by Ramgopal.
Mulayam spoke to Singh before he met Akhilesh, sources said. The CM has on more than one occasion expressed reservations about his father’s close aide.
Singh and Shivpal were with Mulayam when he met the election commission officials in Delhi a day earlier to stake claim to the party symbol.
Akhilesh called on Mulayam within an hour of SP patriarch’s return to Lucknow. Shivpal, who joined them later, didn’t know about the meeting between the father and the son. “I don’t have any information about the meeting. If Netaji (Mulayam) calls me I will go,” he told media.
Earlier in the day, Ramgopal met chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi to stake claim to the ‘bicycle’.
“We told the election commission that most party MPs, MLAs and MLCs are with Akhilesh. So the party led by him is the true Samajwadi Party and should get the party symbol,” Ramgopal told mediapersons in Delhi.
In the event of a split, the poll panel could freeze the symbol, as it doesn’t have the time to verify the claimants’ legislative majority, required to retain the symbol. Both the factions would then go into the election with new symbols and new party names.
Tuesday’s peace bid, too, was initiated by senior minister Azam Khan who flew to Delhi on Monday night to meet Mulayam but could not as the patriarch was with Singh, sources said.
Khan’s first attempt – on December 31 -- at reconciliation barely lasted a day. He managed to convince Mulayam to revoke Akhilesh’s and Ramgopal’s expulsions which were ordered a day earlier. But on Sunday, Akhilesh staged the coup.
(With inputs from Smriti Kak Ramachandran in Delhi)