If the Election Commission’s verdict Monday on the protracted ‘symbol war’ between the Samajwadi Party factions is being keenly awaited, the reasons are not far to seek.
The EC verdict will not only have a strong bearing on the electoral prospects of the SP’s Akhilesh Yadav group in particular, but will also trigger the process of reconfiguration of political forces in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh. The decision on the ‘bicycle’ will also impact the poll prospects of rival parties including the BSP and the BJP.
Chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi’s decree in the case will impact the political scenario in the Hindi heartland state in more ways than one:
Scenario 1: ‘Bicycle’ gets frozen and both Samajwadi Party factions asked to pick new symbols
Considered a safe and neutral option for the Election Commission, a ruling to such effect will massively damage the poll prospects of the SP group led by party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and also take some sheen off the moralistic posturing of the Akhilesh Yadav faction.
The Commission can ask the two factions either to choose new symbols, or to adopt one from the EC’s list of free symbols. Alternately, the factions could tie up with other political outfits to borrow their existing symbols. The two factions can use the new or adopted symbols until such time that a final verdict on the ‘bicycle’ is pronounced by the Commission.
In such a scenario, there will be some confusion among voters of the two groups on the party symbol – the reach of the electronic and social media notwithstanding. Mulayam’s faction is likely to suffer heavy losses in the poll battle, while the group led by his son might not perform as well as anticipated.
Scenario 2: Akhilesh gets the ‘bicycle’
This would be Akhilesh’s big reward and a heady culmination to the painfully bitter political battle he has fought against his father and uncle in for much of last year. Such a decision from the EC would establish his legal status as the SP’s undisputed leader, while pushing the group led by his father into political oblivion. Such a decision will empower Akhilesh to approach the elections with greater verve and confidence and will provide to him an opportunity to negate the “anti-incumbency” factor. With the Congress and possibly the Rashtriya Lok Dal by his side, he could emerge leader of the third vertical in a poll contest with the BSP and the BJP being the other claimants to power.
Scenario 3: Mulayam retains the official symbol
Although considered unlikely, a possible decision by the EC in permitting the Mulayam faction to retain the ‘bicycle’ could upset Akhilesh’s applecart and cause big confusion in the party rank and file. In such a scenario, the Akhilesh faction would still go to poll with a new party symbol, but his reputation as a ‘winning horse’ might suffer partial damage. His support base among the party MPs, MLAs and MLCs could dwindle, while the party old guards including Shivpal Yadav and Amar Singh would be emboldened to retrieve their position to the extent possible. Such a possibility is likely to cause confusion in the SP’s support base amongst the Muslims. This would open up possibilities for rival parties such as the BSP and BJP to make political inroads.