Mulayam Redraws Battle Lines, But Akhilesh Will Stay in Firm Control of Samajwadi Party

The father may be trying to win favour with SP leaders unhappy with the Congress alliance but his latest dig could end up strengthening Akhilesh Yadav’s clean and accommodative image in the eyes of the public.

New Delhi: In light of Samajwadi Party heavyweight Mulayam Singh Yadav declaring that he will not campaign for the upcoming assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, the factional feud within the ruling party seems to be out in the open again.

This may not be good news for chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, who has been trying hard to bury the in-house hatchet and emerge as the only development icon in the state to combat the BJP.

That Mulayam’s defiant words come days ahead of the first phase of polling is a sign that more trouble lies ahead for the two factions in the SP.

While talking to reporters, Mulayam said, “I have always opposed the Congress which has ruled for so long but has done nothing for the development of the nation. I am totally against the alliance between the Samajwadi Party and the Congress and will not campaign for this tie-up in the elections.”

He further added that the SP formed a government on its own only because it fought the elections alone in 2012, suggesting that the alliance will ruin its chances in the 2017 polls.

His statements came on the day when Akhilesh and Congress scion Rahul Gandhi held a joint road show and addressed the press together with a message to defeat the “BJP’s politics of anger and divisiveness”.

Mulayam, whose political career was influenced by the anti-Congress socialist ideologue Ram Manohar Lohia, was widely known to have opposed the pre-poll alliance – one of the greatest sore points between the two factions. Over the past three months, both factions have engaged in a public battle for supremacy within the party.

Akhilesh emerged victorious, with maximum support within the party and the Election Commission awarding him the party’s ‘cycle’ symbol. Though defeated, the Mulayam faction will not be obedient, if his recent statement is any indication.

Political analysts in UP say Mulayam’s latest statement against his son is an attempt to mobilise that section of the party that backed Akhilesh but was left out in the electoral race because of the alliance with the Congress. With the Congress managing to secure 105 seats in the alliance, many SP leaders had to give up their ambitions to get a election ticket.

The SP was planning to give away between 80-85 seats but had to eventually buckle under pressure from the Congress. This meant that at least 20-25 SP leaders hopeful of a ticket were left disgruntled. Mulayam, in his latest dig at Akhilesh, intends to bring this section of the SP leadership to his side.

Tactically, Mulayam said, “SP leaders who lost their seats as part of the alliance deal, what will they do for the next five years?”

But with a majority within the party having thrown its weight firmly behind Akhilesh, it looks highly unlikely that Mulayam’s move will bring him the desired benefits. Paradoxically, Mulayam’s latest stand may actually end up strengthening Akhilesh’s clean and accommodative image in the eyes of the public. At best, the disgruntled elements will adopt a wait-and-watch policy until the election results are out.