Akhilesh gets the Cycle; grand alliance on the cards in UP

Special Correspondent

New Delhi: The Election Commission of India has allocated Bicycle, the election symbol of Samajwadi Party (SP) to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav who has been having a running feud with his father Mulayam Singh Yadav. This devastating development has apparently shattered the SP founder Mulayam Singh.  It remains to be seen whether Mulayam and his younger brother Shivpal Yadav would reconcile to the reality and accept Akhilesh as the owner of the party symbol Bicycle or mobilize support to challenge him or contest EC’s decision in a court of law.

Both the factions of the SP had filed petitions before the EC claiming to be the real party. EC has surprised the observers by announcing that Akhilesh would get the Cycle. It was generally expected that the election symbol would be frozen and two separate symbols would be allocated to the sparring factions. The decision in favour of Akhilesh suggests that the EC has recognized his faction as the real party.  The overwhelming majority enjoyed by Akhilesh in SP Legislative Party was the critical factor which worked in his favour.

The decision of the three-member EC, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi, came after two weeks of factional war between Akhilesh and his father and party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav. The decision of the EC came a day before the filing of nominations in the 7-phased polls in the State from February 11. “The Commission hereby answers the issue by holding that the group led by Akhilesh Yadav is the Samajwadi Party and is entitled to use its name and its reserved symbol Bicycle for the purpose of the Election symbols (Reservation and allotment) order 1968,” the EC said in its order.

Mulayam Singh has declared that he would contest against his son in the forthcoming elections. This would be the mother of all election battles which is most unlikely to happen. Akhilesh, like Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, is a member of Legislative Council. He would not contest in the Assembly election. Instead, he would keep himself free to campaign for his party candidates throughout the State.

The senior Yadav said in a fit of frustration that Akhilesh has alienated the Muslims from the party. It is against the ruling of the Supreme Court which made it clear that no reference to religion or caste should be made in political discourse. Observers say Mulayam is known to make ambiguous statements and confuse the people whenever he is not clear in his mind about the steps to be taken to overcome a crisis. It is to be noted that Amar Singh, the friend and advisor of Mulayam, has gone out of the country on a foreign visit at a very crucial juncture in his friend’s political life as though he has anticipated EC’s decision.

The Muslims who comprise 19 per cent of the voters in Uttar Pradesh have the ability to tilt the balance between the SP and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) headed by Mayawati. A recent survey by ‘India Today’ said that more than 70 per cent of the Muslim voters are behind the SP. It was the situation before the party was split. Who do the Muslims vote in the wake of the party split?  Political observers say the split would benefit the BSP which has given more than one hundred tickets (out of the total of 403 seats) to the Muslim candidates.

However, if there is a ghatbandhan (coalition) on the lines of what happened in Bihar in 2015, the Muslims may behave in a different way. But there was no Mayawati factor in UP.  Ram Gopal Yadav, an uncle of Akhilesh Yadav, has suggested after the decision of the EC was given that a coalition is likely to be formed. Akhilesh expressed his desire to have alliance with the Congress party. He might also align with Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) headed by Ajit Singh, son of Jat leader Charan Singh. The SP-Congress-RLD coalition might convince the Muslims that this combination would be able to defeat the BJP and vote accordingly. But the chances of the BSP cannot be ruled out.

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