Reconciliation in the strife-torn Samajwadi Party appeared dim on Thursday as Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav started collecting affidavits of party legislators and office-bearers ahead of a show of strength in the election commission.
Sources said the 43-year-old has the backing of at least 214 of the party’s 229 MLAs and several office-bearers – crucial if Akhilesh’s faction has to retain the party’s popular election symbol, the bicycle.
“Team Akhilesh is meeting EC (Election Commission) tomorrow. Affidavits are being signed,” member of legislative council Sunil Singh ‘Saajan’ told Hindustan Times as he came out of the meeting briefly before returning to the CM’s official residence.
The state goes to the polls in seven phases beginning February 11, where the SP is locked a tough fight with the BJP, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress.
“Consider this as the last meeting (of legislators and top post holders) before polls. Our national president (Akhilesh) has now asked all MLAs and candidates to go to their constituencies,” he added.
About going a separate way from SP patriarch Mulayam and his family, Saajan said: “The national president has chosen raj dharma over everything else”.
Two factions of the SP – one headed by the CM and the other by his uncle Shivpal Yadav – have been squabbling over party control for months.
Akhilesh’s father and party patriarch Mulayam has sided with Shivpal but recent days have seen a groundswell of support for the young CM.
Sources said Akhilesh and his ‘faction’ were not showing any indication of conceding “even an inch of ground” on contentious issues and were going ahead with election preparation and refurbishing the party’s district and the state unit.
On Wednesday, Akhilesh indicated that he was the inheritor of the party and the symbol. Both factions have gone to the election commission this week, claiming to be the original SP.