UP 2017: Will Akhilesh Yadav split SP for an alliance?
The recent wrangling within the Samajwadi Party (SP) is evolving into an interesting scenario. The candidates announced by the party's state president Shivpal Yadav for the upcoming polls hardly has any leaders from Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav's camp.
Around 80% of proclaimed Akhilesh supporters in the present dispensation have failed to find favour with his estranged uncle in the allotment of assembly tickets. These include prominent MLAs and ministers like Ram Govind Chaudhary and Lalai Yadav.
The situation is no different in the party organisation where pro-Akhilesh leaders find themselves being marginalised. Only the younger lot in the Akhilesh camp has somehow managed to stay relevant due to government backing.
The present schism might lead to a decisive showdown between Shivpal Yadav and his nephew. The circumstances may compel Akhilesh to take drastic steps to assert his authority.
How to make friends and alienate uncles
According to one of his close aides, the chief minister could enter into an alliance with the Congress and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) sans the Shivpal Yadav faction.
Such a measure would neither be unprecedented nor improbable on the part of the chief minister. In October, Shivpal had alleged that Akhilesh was considering the option of breaking the party. The CM's silence over the accusation had only fueled the speculations in this regard.
Rumours were galore at that time about the possibility of Akhilesh forming a new party. However, the controversy subsided after Mulayam Singh's intervention. After the truce with the Shivpal Yadav camp, the CM had assured the party cadre that he would never break the party.
Yet, the grapevine in Delhi's power corridors during the height of this tussle suggested that some of SP's leaders were in touch with the Election Commission to explore the possibility of claiming the party symbol of the motorcycle.
The Samajwadi Party's refusal to forge an alliance would leave Akhilesh Yadav with two options - he can either enter into the electoral battle halfheartedly and campaign for the contestants that are not of his choice, or chalk out his own strategy.
The time is right?
It is important to note in this context that Akhilesh Yadav was conspicuous by his absence in SP's recent election rallies in Ghazipur and Baraily. The Ghazipur rally was also addressed by Shivpal Yadav's son Aditya Yadav.
It was in the midst of these political manoeuvres that political pundits were closely observing Akhilesh Yadav's meeting with 45 party MLAs and ministers on Friday. It led to the fresh round of speculations that the Chief Minister was indeed serious about the prospects of a poll alliance at his own level. One of his close associates has confirmed that Akhilesh Yadav is mulling this option.
The political situation makes an alliance necessary for Akhilesh Yadav, be it at the party-level or in the form of a whole new party.
The CM could make his stand clear in the coming days. However, well-placed sources within the party are saying they would not be surprised if the proposed alliance has Akhilesh as a constituent, but not the Samajwadi Party.
Speculations that leaders brush off with a smile often become a reality in politics.
What are the odds?
The possibility of a tie-up between the Congress and the Samajwadi Party is gaining ground as the election is approaching near. Although, there has not been any official word yet, but it appears, the ice has already melted between the two parties.
Political observers were hoping that things would move forward on this front at a lunch meeting that was hosted by JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav on Friday. The lunch was organised on the occasion of the release of a book on the former Prime Minister Charan Singh. However, Nitish Kumar, Mulayam Singh Yadav as well as Akhilesh Yadav chose to keep a distance from this event.
The news emanating from Lucknow suggests that the SP-Congress alliance is on the verge of being finalised. Some sources claim that the Samajwadi Party is willing to concede 110 seats to its allies. Out of these, 72 seats might be allotted to the Congress while Ajit Singh's RLD may field candidates for the remaining 38 seats. However, minor changes in the formula are possible at the last moment.
Akhilesh has publicly claimed that such an alliance can win over 300 seats. Eliciting the support of the Congress has become his compulsion in a way. The emergence of any other non-NDA alternative could hamper his chances of victory to a great extent.
A pre-poll alliance with the Congress can also save Akhilesh from the upheavals within his own party. He is likely to be the unanimous chief ministerial candidate of any such alliance. It will also give him a greater leverage in deciding the candidates as the main axis of the alliance.
A two-way possibility
Interestingly, Shivpal Yadav is also not against a tie-up with the Congress. According to sources, he is also in touch with the Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad in this regard. But, Shivpal wants to retain the authority to field the candidates of his choice.
Ram Gopal Yadav is another factor in deciding whether SP will enter into an alliance or not. He has just returned to the party and might want to stay away from fresh controversy for the sake of his career.
According to senior SP leaders based in Lucknow, only Amar Singh and Mulayam Singh are against contesting elections by going into an alliance. The latter had minced no words in clarifying that he was not in favour of any alliance, although parties are free to merge with the SP.
Yet, Mulayam is no stranger to political somersaults as was evident during the Bihar polls when he dragged his feet from the grand alliance at the last moment. This is the reason all parties interested in courting the ruling party are choosing to negotiate with the chief minister instead.
What's in it for the Congress?
Entering into an alliance with SP is a matter of survival for the Congress. There are no signs of party's resurgence despite poll managers like Prashant Kishor.
Rahul Gandhi is eyeing the next general election. The party would not like to face humiliation in the UP assembly elections - how the party perform in UP would impact the next Lok Sabha elections. In that sense, UP is the semi-final for the 2019 elections. Its only hope for salvaging its image in UP lies in gaining the support of a major political player like the Samajwadi Party.
On the other hand, smaller parties like RLD and JD(U) have nothing to lose. They only want to register their presence by trying to hang on to whatever gains they can make.
Edited by Jhinuk Sen