Mulayam’s decision not to campaign for SP will hurt Akhilesh-and Congress

Lucknow: Samajwadi Party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav’s announcement on January 29 that he is against the SP-Congress alliance, forged by his son and party President Akhilesh Yadav, and that he will not campaign for it is another setback for the Uttar Pradesh chief minister who is wading into uncharted waters.

Mulayam’s decision is likely to hurt Akhilesh’s campaign psychologically as he and his followers have insisted that he had his father’s blessings after he took over the party’s reins from Mulayam. Akhilesh is already battling five years of anti-incumbency, strong chances of internal sabotage in the elections and the possibility of damage by rebel MLAs on several seats.

Mulayam had earlier not appeared at the release of SP’s manifesto but his name headed the list of star campaigners sent by the SP to the Election Commission. If the patriarch decides to sit out the campaign, Akhilesh could face some trouble in dealing with the party’s traditional supporters. This could give parties like the BSP an opportunity to exploit the cracks in the SP’s Muslim support base and make it difficult for the Congress to get the support of Yadavs.

Although the Congress has shown a preference for Akhilesh over Mulayam since the power tussle in SP began last September, Mulayam’s comments are likely to make things difficult for it if his attitude leads to the non-transfer of SP votes to Congress candidates. An overwhelming majority of SP rank and file have placed their faith in Akhilesh, evident in his anointment as party president on January 1 and being recognised as party president by the Election Commission on January 16.

However, Mulayam’s comments, like his suggestion to party workers that Akhilesh is “against the minorities”, are set to be exploited by opponents like BSP chief Mayawati.

She has already inducted two senior SP leaders, Ambika Chaudhary and Narad Rai, and made them party candidates from the seats they were unlikely to have got tickets for from Akhilesh. She has tried to exploit the divisions in the SP’s first family, saying Akhilesh has “insulted” Shivpal Yadav. Mayawati has cited the SP’s internal differences to appeal to Muslims to help her defeat the BJP. Jailed gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari and his family members, whose entry into SP was opposed by Akhilesh, have also been made candidates by her in an apparent move to woo Muslims.

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