After the public spat came the public show of unity, as Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav flagged off Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s yatra, and state party chief Shivpal Yadav too extended his “best wishes”, in Lucknow on Thursday morning. The yatra, however, hit a roadblock minutes after it began at 10:45 am, as the customised red-coloured Mercedes bus broke down. Akhilesh, who was accompanied by his son and daughter, waited for over an hour, before opting to continue his journey to Unnao in an SUV.
There were murmurs of how it was an inauspicious (apshagun) beginning. “Ab to log kahenge ki yeh bhi chacha ka kaam hai (people will blame his uncle for this too),” remarked an onlooker, referring to the feud between Akhilesh and Shivpal. Even as the crowds gathered on the streets shouted slogans of “Akhilesh phir se”, the Chief Minister quietly drove past, waving to his supporters, but making few stops on the way. Akhilesh was scheduled to address at least 14 meetings before reaching Unnao, about 100 kilometres away. Party workers had set up stages, and put up posters and banners for him. But his convoy just rushed past, even overtaking the media vans along the way.
While most of the people waiting outside were party workers, there were a few curious residents too. “Chale gaye, humein to pata hi nahi chala… Woh to rath mein aane wale the (He’s gone, we didn’t even come to know… he was supposed to come in a rath),” said Rajendra Kumar, owner of a marriage hall, who was among those gathered at Banthara, on Kanpur road.
Flagging off the yatra earlier in the day, Mulayam, flanked by Akhilesh and Shivpal, sought to convey that the party was united ahead of the polls. “Akhilesh ko hum shubhkamna detey hain (I wish Akhilesh well),” said Shivpal, adding that the yatra would send a message of unity across the state.
Akhilesh, on his part, told his supporters to ensure the success of the party’s silver jubilee celebrations on November 5, which Shivpal is organising. “Due to some conspiracies we were affected a bit, but in the days to come we will be able to form government again,” he said.
Stating that he wanted to spend time with the public, he expressed confidence that his government would return to power. He also targeted the Centre on the suicide of ex-serviceman Ram Krishan Grewal. Akhilesh is set to continue his yatra after the party’s silver jubilee celebrations on November 5.