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Presidential polls 2017: Samajwadi Party divided in two camps, cross-voting likely

LiveMint logoLiveMint 16-07-2017 PTI

Lucknow: The Samajwadi Party (SP) appears divided on the eve of the presidential elections with camps led by its patron Mulayam Singh Yadav and party chief Akhilesh Yadav all set to vote for rival candidates, triggering possibility of cross-voting.

Though the division in the party may not have any bearing on the election result, it will certainly complicate the family feud further, said an SP insider, requesting anonymity.

The sharp differences in the party on the issue of presidential nominee was clear right from the day Ram Nath Kovind was chosen as the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) nominee.

Soon after the announcement of Kovind’s name, Mulayam had attended a dinner hosted by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath in honour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Lucknow on 20 June. It was seen in political circles as a clear indication of Mulayam’s support to the NDA candidate.

Significantly, the dinner was skipped by Akhilesh and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati, who are supporting the opposition’s candidate.

The SP patron’s vote for Kovind became a foregone conclusion the very day he openly described him as a “strong candidate”, said the SP insider.

“Ram Nath Kovind is a good candidate. I have a very old relation with him. BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) has selected a strong candidate. The most important thing is that the BJP has a majority,” Mulayam had said on record.

On expected lines, Shivpal, the warring uncle of Akhilesh, said that whatever his elder brother Mulayam decided was the last word for him, indicating that he too would back Kovind.

The opposition’s candidate Meira Kumar, on the other hand, met Akhilesh at the SP headquarters on Friday before meeting Mayawati to seek votes. Interestingly, Shivpal and another senior party leader and legislator Azam Khan were conspicuous by their absence.

Akhilesh has instructed his legislators to vote for Meira Kumar, who has “represented a secular ideology”. SP spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary told PTI that Akhilesh Yadav has given instruction to his MLAs to vote for Kumar.

Another senior SP leader Ram Govind Chaudhary, who is also the leader of the SP legislature party, said, “Everyone should support Kumar.” Ram Govind is also the leader of the opposition in the 403-member UP Lower House.

In a written appeal circulated to all SP MLAs, Kumar said the presidential election has given one an opportunity to transcend petty politics and listen to inner conscience.

Meanwhile, Shivpal has announced in Varanasi that he along with “several” SP MLAs and MPs (members of parliament) will vote for Kovind.

“Kovind has very good relations with netaji (Mulayam). He is a good man and the best candidate,” Shivpal, an MLA, said.

“Netaji jo kahengey wahi hoga (Whatever netaji says will happen),” he said.

Shivpal-loyalist Deepak Mishra, though not a voter, pledged “open support to Kovind” and thanked the prime minister for his selection.

The SP has five members in the Lok Sabha, including Mulayam, and 19 members in the Rajya Sabha, including Amar Singh, who is now an unattached member after his expulsion from the party, besides 47 MLAs in UP.

Since members of legislative council (MLCs) are not part of the electoral college, Akhilesh—an MLC—cannot vote, though his wife Dimple, a Lok Sabha member, is eligible to participate in the exercise.

Mulayam was removed from the party’s national president post and made a patron by Akhilesh in January at the peak of dissidence in the erstwhile ruling party which led to one of the most humiliating drubbings the party suffered in the political history of Uttar Pradesh.

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