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Election Commission gifts cycle to Akhilesh. Green light for UP alliance now?

Sadiq Naqvi | Updated on: 11 February 2017, 6:41 IST

The cycle officially belongs to Akhilesh Yadav now.

Dad Mulayam Singh Yadav's 25-year synonymity with the Samajwadi Party (SP) came to an end on Monday, after the Election Commission of India (ECI) recognised the overwhelming support Akhilesh has received from party cadres, and gave his faction the party's election symbol.

The order is significant, for it could lead to a Akhilesh-Congress-Rashtriya Lok Dal alliance, which is expected to be announced shortly.

This alliance is set to take on the might of the BJP, which swept the 2014 polls, relegating the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) to the margins. Mayawati's party has been on a downward spiral since it lost the 2012 Assembly elections to the SP.

Welcoming the ECI's order, Ram Gopal Yadav, the other senior leader in the Akhilesh Yadav camp, who Mulayam blamed for engineering the split, said he was hopeful for a 'mahagathbandhan' (grand alliance in UP.

The ECI's logic

The ECI did not go into the constitutionality of the 1 January emergency convention, which led to the coup by Akhilesh's faction. Around 90% of party delegates gave a voice vote electing Akhilesh as the party's national president, and ousting Mulayam Singh to an advisory role. Mulayam's brother Shivpal was also ousted from his position as the party's state president.

The ECI, according to the order, applied the majority rule, agreeing with senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, who had argued in the 13 January hearing, that the will of the majority should prevail in the internal functioning of a democratic party, or it would constitute 'a tyranny of the minority'.

Akhilesh's faction had submitted notarised affidavits of 4716 party delegates, including 205 MLAs, 15 MPs, and 56 MLCs in its favour.

Mulayam's faction did not submit any affidavits in its support, despite repeated reminders by the ECI. It just went to the ECI challenging the Akhilesh faction's claims on technical grounds in the party constitution.

The ECI cited the Sadiq Ali case, where the Supreme Court upheld the ECI's ruling in favour of the majority group after the split of the Congress in 1969. It applied the same rule for the split in the SP and ruled in favour of Akhilesh's faction under para 15 of the symbols order.

Mulayam's mistake and response

The order comes as a big blow to ousted president Mulayam, who, at the fag end of his career, decided to go into battle with his son. Mulayam, the master politician of yore, refused to read the writing on the wall - that the party wanted change from the old guard. He remained defiant and continued to back his old aides, Shivpal and Amar Singh, whom the Akhilesh faction blames for making a mess in the party.

However, Mulayam & Co. are not giving up just yet. They will now move court against the decision.

In fact, though, Mulayam has been pushed into a corner, the wily politician is not expected to give his son an easy run in the polls. In an address to the workers on Monday morning at the party headquarters, Mulayam even threatened to contest against his son, and blamed him for being anti-minority.

The alliance plan

The Akhilesh faction already has a plan in place for the alliance with the Congress, RLD and other smaller outfits, and was just awaiting the ECI's decision.

Of the 403-seat Assembly, Akhilesh doesn't want to give up more than around 120 seats to his alliance partners. A bulk of these (about 75-90) are expected to go to the Congress, around 25 to the RLD, with smaller parties making up the rest of the numbers.

Now, with the cycle belonging to him, Akhilesh has more elbow room to negotiate terms.

The Congress and the RLD are said to be desperate for an alliance, recognising the fact that if they go it alone, they might be wiped out.

Congress insiders say they fear the party may not even get to double-digit figures if it were to contest on its own.

The RLD, too, has lost its support base post the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013, with the bulk of its Jat voters going to the BJP, and Muslim voters deserting it for other parties.

The Muslim vote factor

The attention will now turn to Muslim voters in the run-up to the Uttar Pradesh polls. Will they transfer their allegiance from Mulayam to Akhilesh? Or will they give in to the cajoling being done by the likes of Mayawati? The BSP has fielded 97 Muslim candidates, with a sizeable number in the first two phases in western UP.

This is expected to polarise the elections, because analysts say it would give BJP a reason to attack these parties for playing 'vote-bank politics'..

However, an alliance between the SP, the Congress and the RLD could partially undo this advantage to the BJP, and is expected to get the support of those sections who are not happy with the policies of the Centre.

The Narendra Modi government's demonetisation move, which has given these parties enough ammunition to oppose the government, could lead to those sections galvanising in favour of the alliance.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

First published: 16 January 2017, 9:53 IST