The Samajwadi Party may have moved closer to a split with Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav releasing a list of 235 candidates late on Thursday evening.
The list includes 171 sitting legislators and 64 candidates for constituencies that the SP did not win in the last election.
Arvind Singh Gope, Pawan Pandey and Ram Govind Chaudhary, who were denied tickets by Shivpal, found place in Akhilesh Yadav's list. While Gope replaced Beni Prasad Verma's son in Ramnagar, Pandey was nominated from Ayodhya, replacing the party's official candidate from the pilgrim town.
Allahabad University Students Union's first woman president Richa Singh also finds a place in Akhilesh's list. She has been fielded from Allahabad West against Puja Pal of the Bahujan Samaj Party.
The chief minister's move sent Mulayam Singh Yadav and Shivpal into a huddle. Late in the evening, Shivpal, the SP's state president, retaliated by releasing a list of 44 candidates. In his, Jyoti Yadav and not Richa Singh is the party's candidate from Allahabad West. Shivpal is said to be readying the names of the remaining "official" party candidates.
Akhilesh's own second list is expected on Friday.In a related development, which does not augur well for the SP, Kunda MLA Raghuraj Pratap Singh is said to be set to switch loyalty to the BJP. Kunda finds no mention in Akhilesh's first list.
Earlier, in the day, after hours of negotiations with his father Mulayam and uncle Shivpal over the inclusion of his loyalists in the "official" list of candidates, Akhilesh had declared 167 candidates of his own.
These names reportedly did not figure in Shivpal's list.
Samajwadi Party's spokesman CP Rai said that announcement of names was the prerogative of party's parliamentary board, and he questioned the legality of Akhilesh's list.
A split in the party now looks imminent, although a party source said that the chief minister is using pressure tactics to get tickets for his confidantes.
The Samajwadi Party general secretary Ram Gopal Verma said that the candidates' list could be revised until the last moment. He said that "when tickets are not distributed according to the CM's wish, meetings are bound to take place".
Another list was to be released tomorrow.
The next steps
With indications of Akhilesh forming a new front, these candidates are reportedly have been told to be ready to contest the elections on their respective seats using different symbols, as independents.
The CM's candidates could well be undercutting the votes of official contestants fielded by Mulayam and Shivpal.
An explosive meeting
At the meeting on 28 December, it was learnt that Shivpal cited a survey to defend denial of ticket to ministers Arvind Singh Gope, Ram Govind Chaudhary and Pawan Pandey.
Akhilesh countered this by saying that his own survey said that the three were winning candidates. He also wanted to see the survey cited by Shivpal.
After this, news filtered out that the three could be given tickets from the seats they wanted.
The negotiations fell through apparently after Akhilesh insisted on the inclusion of some more of his favourites in the list.
Mulayam and Shivpal queered the pitch for Akhilesh when they released a list of 325 candidates on Tuesday, while the chief minister was away in Mahoba addressing an election meeting.
Mulayam also refused to name Akhilesh as the party's chief ministerial candidate, even as he left it him to decide the constituency from where he wanted to contest the 2017 election.
Shivpal said the same thing, though differently. He had tweeted that according to the party's constitution the chief minister will be elected by the legislature party members.
This did not go down well with the chief minister who, after his return to Lucknow, said that he would take up the issue with Netaji, as Mulayam is addressed.
Akhilesh's supporters began collecting outside his official residence and this morning, the chief minister was closeted with his loyalists before he went to meet Mulayam.
The whole day his supporters waited for the meeting's outcome and after being told that the chief minister was releasing
Signs of yet another round of power struggle in the Samajwadi Party became visible after the chief minister Akhilesh Yadav handed over a list of 403 candidates for the assembly elections to Mulayam, the national president of the party, on Christmas Day.
His uncle and the SP's state president responded to Akhilesh's move by tweeting that names of candidates for 175 seats had already been announced using the winnability criteria. "Indiscipline in the party won't be tolerated," Shivpal warned.
On the one hand, Akhilesh was upset that his loyalists were denied ticket and on the other criminals had been fielded by his elders much against his wishes. Sources said that names of Allahabad mafia Atiq Ahmed and Amarmani Tripathi's son Amanmani Tripathi do not figure in Akhilesh's list, but both figure in the list released Mulayam.
With the battle for supremacy between Akhilesh and Shivpal in its decisive phase, the coming few days could be critical for the future of Samajwadi Party.
Edited by Aleesha Matharu
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