New Delhi: While the Samajwadi Party plunged into crisis on Friday with the expulsion of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and party general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav, the issue of which group will be considered the ‘real party’ and which group will get to contest the upcoming assembly elections on the “cycle” symbol will be decided by the Election Commission, provided one of the parties approaches it for adjudication of the matter.
On how the EC would approach the issue, former chief election commissioner N. Gopalaswami told The Wire that one of the parties would first have to approach the commission for it to take up the matter. He said there have been several cases in the past of such splits, including the Congress split into Congress ‘O’ and Congress ‘I ‘ and the split in Tamil Nadu’s AIADMK party in the late 1980s into two groups; one led by MGR’s wife Janaki and the other by his protege J. Jayalalithaa.
Gopalaswami said that while several criteria are considered by the commission, one of the deciding points centres around the constitution of the party and what it specifies about the conduct of meetings and actions taken therein.
According to Section 15 of the party constitution of Samajwadi Party, which specifies the role of the national executive, the power to give directions to various units would remain with this unit. Sub-points 10 and 11 also state that the meeting of the national executive would be convened by the president (which is Mulayam Singh Yadav) and that the leader of the legislative group, which in this case is chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, would be an ex-officio member of this panel.
Section 16 of the party’s constitution also states that the president of the national executive would preside over the national conference and special sessions of the party. Its sub-clause also mentions that the party president would, during the course of the national executive, be empowered to deal with any discipline related issue.
According to the party constitution, therefore, the party supremo definitely sits on a higher pedestal in the scheme of things. However, political analysts believe at a time of a split in a party, it is usually the voice of the public which prevails.
Former CEC T.S. Krishnamurthy said that for the Election Commission the question of deciding which group would be treated as the main party is based on the “number of yardsticks which have been provided by the Supreme Court through its decisions in five-six cases, including the famous Congress split case. So it will have to hear both the parties and then have a decision on the basis of these guidelines given by the apex court. The hearing will take place and a full Election Commission will decide the matter.”
Krishnamurthy said the first case on which the guidelines are based is the Congress split case, in which they had suspended the symbol and given two separate symbols to the two groups.
For the Samajwadi Party case though, he said, one of the aggrieved parties will have to take the matter before the Election Commission. On the importance of the party constitution in the matter, he said “yes, it would have to be seen what were the conditions required. It would also look into the conduct of the general meeting of the party, who attended, how many attended and what were the conditions prescribed in the party constitution.”