After closing ranks to stave off split in votes, the high and mighty in the Samajwadi Party have planned a strategy session here on Friday to project a united face ahead of Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls due early next year.
With an internal war sullying the image of the ruling party barely few months before the crucial elections, SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav has minced no words while cautioning senior party leaders against any split in votes.
There have been signs of a thaw and it would be for the first time since the bitter family feud within the Yadav family came to the fore during middle of this year that Mulayam, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his uncles Shivpal and Ram Gopal would sit together sinking their differences.
The meeting is likely to dwell on the thorny issues of distribution of tickets to candidates and reinstatement of sacked ministers and party members, a party insider said.
Mulayam recently revoked the expulsion of his cousin Ram Gopal Yadav, weeks after the MP was expelled for six years for publicly siding with Akhilesh. The crisis within the Yadav family pitted Akhilesh against his father Mulayam and uncle Shivpal, months ahead of the UP elections.
Fearing the repercussions of a divided house, SP is also contemplating taking back all its expelled leaders as a picture of disunity will help its opponents, the BSP and the BJP, in the battle of ballots.
Muslim voters account for nearly 20 per cent of Uttar Pradesh population and can easily make or mar the electoral prospects of any party.
The long-drawn internal war, which broke out some four months ago and spilled over into public domain, was keenly watched by SP’s political opponents which expected to gain from split in the ruling party’s vote bank.
Party sources said the decision to have a joint meeting was taken following a discussion SP state president Shivpal Yadav had with Mulayam. Shivpal later met party general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav in Delhi earlier this week.
Shivpal had publicly touched feet of Ram Gopal Yadav to drive home the message that they have buried the hatchet. While expelling Ram Gopal, Shivpal had accused him of trying to save his skin as his son, MP Akshay Pratap, and daughter-in-law were allegedly embroiled in a graft case being probed by CBI. Shivpal had also blamed Ram Gopal for SP’s breakup from the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ (grand coalition) in Bihar last year. Sources said the discussion on poll preparations could not be done thoroughly in the absence of Akhilesh.
The party high command feels that the development agenda of the chief minister has sent a positive message across the state but going to polls as a house divided would hamper its poll prospects.
Both BJP and BSP have mounted a fierce attack on the ruling party in the run-up to 2017 Assembly elections, while SP is harping on development tune.
Lucknow metro flagged off; Mayawati says it’s cheap popularity
The trial run of the Uttar Pradesh government's much publicised Lucknow Metro was flagged off on Thursday by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his father Mulayam Singh Yadav even as BSP chief Mayawati alleged the project was completed in haste to gain cheap popularity ahead of polls. The function was held at Transport Nagar depot for the trial run up to Charbagh railway station, a distance of 8.5 km.
Addressing the gathering, Akhilesh said it was a challenge to start the project on time, and added that adding that they have "set an example before the country".
"Metro was not in our manifesto but we initiated the project. The work for the same has also been started in Ghaziabad, between Greater Nodia and Noida, and also in Kanpur. If we come to power again, we will start work in Varanasi too," he said.
Asserting that the ruling Samajwadi Party did not play politics on the issue of development, Akhilesh said his government gave land for establishment of AIIMS in Raebareli and in Gorakhpur as well so that people could avail the best medical facilities.
"We don't believe in blame game. We are for development and support every move initiated for it," he said.
The trial run, however, evoked strong criticism from BSP supremo Mayawati, who said it was a decision taken in haste by the ruling SP, "as it knew very well that it would not return to power" in the upcoming UP Assembly elections.
"It was done in haste to gain cheap popularity and smacks of 'bachkani zid' (childish stubbornness) of the chief minister," she said.
SP supremo Mulayam said he was glad the project was completed in a timely fashion.
"When I was asked to lay foundation for the project, I wanted to know how much time it will take and refused when I was told it will take four years. Them they said it will be completed in three years, but I again declined. When I was told it will be completed in 2 years, I agreed," he said.