The Samajwadi Party’s top leadership put up a united show on Thursday at the launch of the party’s poll campaign in Uttar Pradesh after weeks of a damaging family power tussle ahead of assembly elections next year.
The Vikas Yatra was flagged off in Lucknow by party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, flanked by son Akhilesh and brother Shivpal on either side – the first time they have been seen together following a fight for control of the party that erupted two months ago.
The tussle that has seen accusations hurled and a string of tit-for-tat sackings is seen to have bruised the party’s image – especially with the electorally crucial Muslim community.
But speaking at a rally in Lucknow to mark the beginning of the yata, Akhilesh dismissed any possibility of a split and said the SP was united to stop communal forces from coming to power in Uttar Pradesh.
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“As this rath will move , it will unite our party workers as well as netas,” Akhilesh told thousands of cheering supporters.
“This election will change national politics. It is our time to come back to power.”
The massive road-show headlined by a snazzy 10-wheeler Mercedes ‘rath’ was aimed at showcasing a message of unity after weeks of fighting between Akhilesh and Shivpal.
Shivpal congratulated the CM and wished him all success for the yatra and the upcoming polls, where the SP is locked in a close fight with the BJP, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress.
“The yatra is being taken out under the leadership of Akhilesh. It will give a message to the entire UP and popularise work by our government,” he said.
But the message of unity was marred somewhat by chaotic scenes that broke out minutes before the yatra was to be flagged off as supporters of Akhilesh and Shivpal came to blows.
The much-anticipated yatra was also stopped abruptly after the multi-crore Mercedes bus broke down barely a kilometer into the yatra. Akhilesh stepped out of the bus and continued the rest of the journey in a car.
“It’s election time, parties will take out rath yatras. People will assess on the basis of party’s performance and we will emerge winner on the basis of our development works,” said Akhilesh.