Akhilesh's office has put out his list of 235 candidates, smartly not naming anyone for seats where the sitting candidates belong to the Congress party (except two). To Akhilesh loyalists who are being denied tickets by the party, he has asked them to go and start their campaign anyway.
After Akhilesh put out his list, Mulayam and his brother Shivpal put out another list of 68 candidates late last night. This was a way of saying they do not intend to give in to Akhilesh's threat of splitting the party.
This takes the total number of official candidates declared by the Samajwadi Party to 393, ten short of the total 403 seats. A compromise would need either side to climb down a lot, but so far they have only been upping the ante.
It could become clear by the end of day whether the Samajwadi Party is heading for a split or if there will be a last minute compromise. All indications are that it is too late for a compromise now. Tomorrow morning, Mulayam has called a meeting of all declared candidates. Akhilesh has called a meeting of the party's core group today.
What is not clear is how Akhilesh could create a new party overnight. 'Professor' Ram Gopal Yadav, the party's general secretary who deals with the Election Commission, has come out clearly in favour of Akhilesh. Ram Gopal has also said that a compromise in the party now looks impossible. He has also alleged that Mulayam had called a meeting on 1 January, 2017 to discuss the candidates, but suddenly and prematurely announced his list on 29 December.
It is clear that Mulayam and Shivpal want to marginalise Akhilesh Yadav in the party. If Shivpal supporters dominate the new SP legislative members group, how will they choose Akhilesh Yadav as their leader?
Merely accommodating a few of Akhilesh Yadav's supporters would not be enough. It is clear that Mulayam and Shivpal want to marginalise Akhilesh in the party. If Shivpal supporters dominate the new SP legislative members group, how will they choose Akhilesh as their leader? And Mualayam has also refused naming a CM candidate.
In the event of a split, there will be many who will have a difficult choice to make. There are many candidates who find themselves in both Akhilesh and Mulayam lists. Most in the party don't want to have to make a choice between the two camps, but are being forced to do so. For the election, they need both the cycle symbol and Akhilesh's name. Both sides seem to be busy finding out who is with which camp.
It is Ram Gopal Yadav's job to finally allot candidates the cycle symbol for the Election Commission. If Akhilesh splits away, Ram Gopal would play a key role. With a split in the party, and most party MLAs with the Akhilesh camp, they could appeal to the EC and the courts to seize the cycle symbol. As a result, no party may be able to contest with the cycle symbol.
Most in the party don't want to have to make a choice between the two camps, but are being forced to do so.
Akhilesh's candidates could contest independently, or he could take over an existing defunct party so that he has a uniform symbol throughout the state. An alliance with the Congress and possibly the Ajit Singh-led Rashtriya Lok Dal could make sure the new Akhilesh party is in the race.
Such a game-plan is possibly only if Akhilesh has already prepared for it in advance. It increasingly looks like that he indeed has.
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