With filing of nominations for the first phase of assembly polls drawing closer, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on Thursday asked his ministers and legislators not to worry about tickets as he fine-tuned with his close aides Samajwadi Party’s strategy.
As his father and SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav and warring uncle Shivpal camped in New Delhi, waiting for the Election Commission to take up on Friday the dispute in the party over its ‘cycle’ symbol, Akhilesh remained closeted with his close confidants at his 5 Kalidas Marg official residence to discuss the poll scenario.
“Don’t get trapped in the symbol dispute. It is before the EC and will get resolved tomorrow (Friday),” he told party workers who had assembled at this residence for ‘Janata Darshan’.
“Go to the masses. I will draw up my tour programme and will join you,” Akhilesh, who replaced Mulayam as the SP president recently, directed his supporters, who aired their strong desire that he should be the chief minister again.
Akhilesh told his ministers and legislators that they should not worry about tickets.
“You will get tickets, do not worry. Work hard for SP’s victory,” he told them during the 90-minute animated interaction.
“All is well in the party,” he told waiting mediapersons on coming out of the meeting.
The Lok Dal on Thursday offered its symbol to embattled Samajwadi Party patron Mulayam Singh Yadav to contest the Uttar Pradesh elections in case the ‘cycle’ symbol is frozen by the Election Commission due to feud in the party.
Lok Dal is a registered, unrecognised party which its national president Sunil Singh claimed was formed by socialist leader Charan Singh in 1980.
“I met Mulayam Singh and offered him to contest the elections on our symbol (farmer ploughing the field) in case the cycle symbol is frozen. But he is hopeful that the feud will be settled and the symbol would not be frozen,” Singh told reporters after the meeting.
Asked whether he discussed any modalities with Yadav, Singh said Mulayam is a senior socialist leader and he is free to be the party president.
Senior SP minister and Akhilesh loyalist Rajendra Chaudhary said that the chief minister was giving final touches to the SP manifesto which was likely to be released soon after the symbol dispute is resolved by the EC.
The manifesto will focus on agriculture sector and welfare of minorities, he said.
Party insiders said Akhilesh was working on a new list of candidates, keeping out those facing criminal charges and accommodating deserving aspirants.
The two SP factions led by Mulayam and Akhilesh have staked claim over the party and its election symbol ‘cycle’ ahead of assembly elections and the EC has decided to hear the matter on Friday.
Mulayam, in a surprise softening of stand towards his son, recently said Akhilesh will be the next chief minister, but his statement failed to iron out the differences between the father-son duo on contentious issues like party president’s post which Akhilesh does not want to give up.
Taking full control of the ruling party after being crowned as its head at a disputed national convention here on January 1, Akhilesh has been going whole hog consolidating his grip over the organisation by making new appointments and releasing list of candidates for the legislative council polls.
The seven-phase assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh will begin on February 11 and filing of nominations will start on January 17 before which the symbol dispute has to be resolved.
Party insiders said former ministers Narad Rai, Om Prakash Singh, Shahdab Fatima and Ambika Chaudhary might find place in the new list along with Arvind Singh Gope and Ram Govind Chaudhary.
Likewise, some tainted nominees, including Atiq Ahmed, Mukhtar Ansari’s brother Sibghatullah, and Amanmani Tripathi, son of a murder convict, given ticket by Mulayam and Shivpal could be dropped.
While Atiq is a politician with criminal background, Ansari is gangster-turned-politician heading the Qaumi Ekta Dal, whose merger with SP was strongly opposed by Akhilesh, before he had to give in to pressure from Mulayam.
Mulayam had announced candidates for all but eight of the 403 assembly seats on December 30.
Later the Akhilesh camp had circulated through social media an unsigned list of 250 candidates.
Apparently to send the message that he was calling the shots as ‘president’ of the SP, Akhilesh has cleared the names of three candidates for the biennial elections to UP upper House for Kanpur-Unnao (Teachers constituency), Allahabad-Jhansi (Teachers constituency) and Bareilly-Moradabad (Graduates constituency).
Akhilesh has already appointed heads of 11 district party units in Mainpuri, Moradabad, Fatehpur, Etawah, Farukhabad, Hardoi, Firozabad, Deoria, Kushinagar, Azamgarh and Mirzapur.
The existing presidents of these district units were sacked with immediate effect to pave the way for new faces to demonstrate the chief minister's strengthening grip over the party.
Presidents in all these districts were dumped by Shivpal, who is state president of another faction of SP backed by Mulayam, his elder brother.
Photograph: PTI Photo