The Election Commission on Friday reserved its order on the Samajwadi Party’s case, following a hearing that lasted for more than four hours, ANI reported. The poll panel was hearing claims by the party’s two factions over its name and symbol – a bicycle. The groups – one under Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and the other under his father and SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav – have staked claim on the party name and symbol and had presented their cases to the EC earlier.
The Akhilesh Yadav side was represented by senior lawyer Kapil Sibal. He argued that the Uttar Pradesh chief minister should be given the cycle symbol because he was now the national SP president and had the support of a majority of the party MLAs. Mulayam Singh Yadav was represented by senior Supreme Court advocate Mohan Parasaran, NDTV reported.
On January 5, the EC had asked the factions of the party to prove their strength in terms of support from MLAs, MPs and MLCs by submitting signed affidavits. The poll panel had also asked both the camps to make statements about each other’s representation. The decision over the matter has to be taken by January 17, when nominations for the state Assembly polls begin. If the panel fails to resolve the dispute by that time, it could freeze the party symbol and the camps will have to contest the upcoming polls with new names and symbols.
Mulayam Singh Yadav had requested his son to withdraw his faction’s representation to the commission. On January 7, Akhilesh Yadav had submitted affidavits to the poll monitor, saying he had the support of over 90% of SP’s members. The commission had asked both sides to file their replies to each other’s petitions. Officials said the cycle symbol may be frozen if the dispute remained unresolved after January 17.
Mulayam Singh Yadav, however, has repeatedly denied a rift with his son. On Monday, he had said that the problem was only within the party and not with Akhilesh Yadav. “One person is creating trouble,” he had said, in an apparent reference to Ram Gopal Yadav. He had told ANI that there was no chance of a split within the party, adding that Akhilesh Yadav will be the Uttar Pradesh chief minister after the Assembly elections.
The SP feud escalated in December after Akhilesh Yadav released his own list of candidates for the polls. The infighting began in September 2015 after Shivpal Yadav was appointed the state SP chief, following which Akhilesh Yadav had relieved him of his Cabinet portfolios. Despite interventions from Mulayam Singh Yadav and other senior party leaders, the apparent dispute continues even with the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections weeks away.
Uttar Pradesh has more Assembly seats than any other Indian state. Polling for the 403 seats will be held in seven phases, starting February 14. The last phase of the election will be held on March 8. Results will be declared on March 11.