The rift in the Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh may get widened further after the announcement of 23 candidates, many of whom are not to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav's liking.
If a truce is not reached soon, the party is moving swiftly towards a final showdown between the two factions as the state assembly elections loom ahead.
There are two options left before Akhilesh Yadav. The first is to accept the situation like it is, where uncle Shivpal Yadav remains in a decision-making role.
The second is to take a stand openly, something his loyalists want. Like an aide put it, "Either he will have to leave it to the other faction to decide on the candidates and let them do take the lead in campaign and distance himself, or come up with his own list of candidates."
The latter option will obviously lead to more friction in the party. "After a lull, when things seemed to be cooling down, it appears that the situation is back to square one," the aide says.
Lists and lawlessness
Failure on the law and order front has been SP government's major criticism.
Party insiders point out that releasing a list with names of candidates like Atiq Ahmad, who have several criminal cases against him, goes entirely against the efforts of the chief minister, who has been pushing his 'clean image' showcasing projects like the Agra Lucknow Expressway and the newly launched Lucknow Metro. Akhilesh has openly expressed his displeasure with Ahmed, earlier in May, when during a rally in Bahraich, he had asked him to leave the stage.
The new list, meanwhile, has the imprimatur of state party chief Shivpal Yadav, who is engaged in a bitter battle with nephew Akhilesh over who would control the affairs of the party, and party supremo Mulayam Singh.
This comes days after the statement of reinstated senior leader Ram Gopal Yadav, who had said that being the member secretary of the SP's Central Parliamentary Board, he would ultimately be deciding the tickets.
Since he has been openly on the side of the CM in the ongoing feud, it was understood that the ticket distribution would have Akhilesh's stamp of approval on it.
However, after that, Amar Singh, another important actor in the whole feud, whom the Akhilesh Yadav faction blames for the ongoing problems in the party was recently made member of the Central Parliamentary board of the party.
The letter appointing him was signed by Ramgopal Yadav, on the instructions of party chief Mulayam Singh. It is this party's parliamentary board which will eventually decide who gets to contest on the party symbol.
Akhilesh, in a recent interview in the HT Summit, had said that if he were the state president he would have decided who remains in the party, and would have sent a proposal to oust Singh.
CM Yadav had at multiple times expressed his wish to decide on who gets to contest the elections on the Samajwadi Party ticket in 2017, something which has been resisted by uncle Shivpal, even as a major section of the party wants Akhilesh to call the shots. "A large section of the party wants the CM to decide on who contests the next Assembly elections," a SP MP told Catch even as he played down that there was any rift in the party.
"The CM has not said publicly that he is against those whose names have been announced," the SP MP says.
However, others feel uncle Shivpal Yadav, who currently heads the party's state unit, is trying to thwart party's chances in the next polls.
"What is it if not sabotage," one of Akhilesh's aide asks, adding what was the need to announce the names of tainted candidates like Atiq Ahmad at this stage when the elections have not yet been announced. "The CM is trying to contest the elections on his clean image, while others are trying their best to ensure by announcing names of criminals," says the aide.
Akhilesh previously had chosen to stay away from the party's rally in Gorakhpur, which was attended by leaders of Mukhtar Ansari's Qaumi Ekta Dal, an alliance the CM was not comfortable with. He has also did not attend the Bareilly rally.
The list also includes Sibghatullah Ansari, a sitting MLA from Banda, and brother of Mukhtar Ansari. The list also has Haseenuddin Siddiqui, the brother of BSP's heavyweight Naseemuddin Siddiqui, who joined the SP after BSP decided to not field him.
It also does not make it clear whether Amanmani Tripathi, facing charges of murdering his wife would continue as the SP candidate. His name was part of the last list, which Akhilesh had claimed that he was unaware of and party sources had said that Akhilesh was not in favour of Amanmani given a ticket. The list also includes candidates like Abdullah Azam, the son of Minister Azam Khan, who would have anyway got a ticket.
No end in sight
Another open sign that the feud is far from over emerged when Javed Abidi, another close aide of CM Yadav was appointed as the advisor to the Department of Irrigation. Abidi was publicly humiliated by Shivpal Yadav during the party's silver jubilee celebrations on 5 November when the latter pushed him away from the dais in anger even before he could conclude his address.
Insiders also claim that uncle Shivpal Yadav had tried to use his offices to ensure that the party cadres remain away from Akhilesh's Rath Yatra which started on 3 November.
"He did not send any advisory to the party units in the state asking them to come for the yatra," an aide claims.
The SP MP, meanwhile, points out that all the people present in the Rath Yatra were SP cadre. "Isn't it a good sign that party cadres are coming without being asked to come, even if one is to believe that the state unit did not ask them to come," he asks.
A party insider also points out that the way Shivpal Yadav is going about changing the party officials on the district level and also those in other youth wings of the party does not bode well since the elections are just a few months away and these changes would only hurt the prospects.
Akhilesh, insiders say, had also been toying with the idea of forming a new party, something which Shivpal Yadav also accused him of. But he cooled down after he saw the overwhelming number of MLAs and cabinet colleagues who turned up in his favour during the course of the feud. He is said to have then changed his stance to "Why should I leave. Those who have a problem should leave the party," an aide points out.
Election Commission of India sources say that a section of the SP was indeed exploring the possibility of motorcycle as a symbol for the new outfit. However, it is not possible now for the registration of a new party takes a few months.
However, the options of a truce are still open since all the tickets which have been announced pertain to the seats that the SP lost in the last elections. Like the party MP says, "many of these may change in the future once the elections are announced."
Another former minister from the party points out how several of these may go to the alliance partners in the case if the party decides to contest elections with other political outfits, something CM Yadav is keen on.
Edited by Aleesha Matharu