The warring Samajwadi Party factions raced against time to claim the party name and symbol as chances of reconciliation between Mulayam Singh Yadav and his chief minister-son Akhilesh grew dim on Thursday.
While Mulayam and his brother Shivpal, flew to Delhi to meet Election Commission officials, Akhilesh Yadav started collecting affidavits of party legislators and office-bearers ahead of a meeting with the poll panel on Friday.
Sources said the 43-year-old chief minister 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.
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.
Cabinet minister Ravidas Malhotra, who was present at the meeting in Lucknow, quoted Akhilesh as saying, “Netaji is my father. I have asked him (Mulayam) to give me authority for three months. After returning to power, he may decide whatever he wants.”
Sources in the Mulayam camp said the party supremo was armed with signed affidavits of MLAs, MLCs and MPs which he would furnish to the EC but their number was not immediately clear.
In the 403-member UP Assembly, the SP has 229 MLAs.
The EC has asked both factions to show strength of MLAs, MPs and MLCs supporting them through signed affidavits by January 9.
After deposing Mulayam as SP boss, Akhilesh appeared to be consolidating his position further by appointing presidents of several district units.
(With agency inputs)