Amidst accusations that the Samajwadi Party (SP) government mishandled communal clashes in Muzaffarnagar in which 38 persons have been killed, the party began its two-day National Executive meet on Wednesday.
Signifying a rift in the party, senior leader and Uttar Pradesh minority affairs minister Azam Khan stayed away from the meet allegedly to protest the Muzaffarnagar violence.
The meeting has been organised to decide the party’s strategy for 2014 general elections and the party has taken up issues such as price hike on which it will target the ruling Congress. SP extends outside support to the UPA government.
With a view to expand Samajwadi Party's base outside the Hindi heartland, the party's national general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav today said SP would contest Lok Sabha elections outside Uttar Pradesh as well.
Talks are going on for the party to contest elections in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, he said at the Samajwadi Party national executive meeting.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and about 100 other SP leaders attended the meeting which is being held at Agra’s ITC Mughal Hotel.
Party leaders including Shivpal Yadav, Ahmed Hasan were present at the meeting. Party MP Jaya Bachchan was also seen sitting in the last row.
After communal clashes broke out in the western UP district, there was speculation that the meeting might be postponed but finally the party decided to go ahead with it.
Mulayam had described the riots as ‘caste clash’ on Tuesday even as many Muslim organisations in UP attacked SP for failing to control the communal strife.
State minister for prison and party spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said before the meeting that the party will look at alternatives to both Congress-led UPA and BJP-led NDA.
“Nation is looking for an alternative to the NDA and the UPA and the Agra meet would discuss how SP can provide that alternative. Our party will not enter into alliance with any political party in general elections,” Chaudhary said.
Chaudhary blamed communal forces for the violence in Muzaffarnagar but applauded the leadership provided by Akhilesh Yadav in tackling the situation. When asked about the Muslim organisations’ criticism of SP, he refused to comment.
Mumbai-based SP leader Abu Azmi has blamed local officials in Muzaffarnagar for deterioration of law and order. “It appears that proper information was not communicated to the chief minister in time,” Azmi said.
Senior party leader Naresh Agarwal also said that the government is doing its best to restore peace and harmony in the district. “Mulayam Singh Yadav has already termed it as caste clash and has expressed hopes for normalcy soon,” he said.
On Mulayam’s statement that he is not prime ministerial candidate, Agarwal said, “He is big-hearted leader but we have our own aspirations. We would consider the situation after formation of Third Front after the elections.”