Even as the Akhilesh Yadav camp of the Samajwadi Party (SP) is encouraged by both the organisational and public support to the Uttar Pradesh chief minister, there are four concerns that have them worried.
The ruling SP is in the middle of an intense power struggle with party patriach Mulayam Singh Yadav and his brother Shivpal Yadav on one side and Mulayam’s son, Akhilesh, and cousin Ramgopal Yadav on the other. Both the factions have staked claim to the party name and the symbol, asserting majority support.
The first of seven-phase assembly elections begins on February 11.
The first is the battle over the party symbol, currently being fought in the Election Commission. Both factions are vying for the bicycle for its recall value among old voters and its association with the party.
But a close aide of CM Akhilesh told Hindustan Times, “Even if we don’t get the ticket, we think we will manage. This is the age of WhatsApp and Facebook. Within minutes, the party symbol will get communicated to every village in the state; the CM’s poster with the symbol will be everywhere within days.”
Others are not as hopeful and believe that old voters may still cast their ballot for the bicycle out of habit and building a brand in such quick time is not easy.
The second challenge, which the Akhilesh camp admits has kept the CM worried too, is the absence of campaign activity. “We had major plans to be out on the field right now. But because of this fight, the CM is stuck in Lucknow mobilising support to defeat the designs of rivals. So we have not been able to increase our contact with the people,” the aide said.
Indeed, in travels in Purvanchal, it was clear that the only party which had campaigned at all was the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The SP’s campaign was almost invisible.
The third challenge is ticket distribution, and the uncertainty over it. “Unless we have greater clarity about the alliance with the Congress, we cannot decide on all candidates. The second problem is that in the process of mustering support in the internal feud, we have taken the support of many existing MLAs who now expect us to reciprocate by giving them tickets - but they may not be the best candidates,” a legislator close to the CM told HT.
Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has already declared its candidates; the BJP is expected to do so by January 15. Akhilesh has got many independent surveys conducted to judge the popularity of candidates, but the delay has upset calculations.
And the fourth worry for the CM remains his father. Attempts at truce have failed - and it is learnt that even when the two met in the past week, substantive conversation was very limited, with Mulayam Singh Yadav just reiterating that he remained the party chief and would make decisions.
This is no longer acceptable to Akhilesh, who is well aware that any compromise now would dent his image. But what concerns them is what Netaji may do next.
“We genuinely believe he is being controlled by the wrong set of people. He may make an appeal; something may happen to him; he is in a very unpredictable state of mind,” the CM’s aide said.
To take advantage of the enthusiasm for the CM, his team is hoping for a favourable outcome on these four fronts - getting the symbol, kickstarting campaign, getting clarity on alliance and candidates, and getting Netaji to politically retreat, and remain quiet for the next month.