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Explained: Bicycle, the SP’s election symbol — and how Mulayam and Akhilesh have identified with it

Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav founded the Samajwadi Party on October 4, 1992, and the party was allotted bicycle as its symbol for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election in 1993. What is the symbolism of the bicycle?

Written by Lalmani Verma , Edited by Explained Desk | Lucknow |
Updated: February 22, 2022 1:02:54 am
Mulayam and Akhilesh Yadav at the Samajwadi Party head office in Lucknow on January 1, 2022. (Express Photo)

Bicycle, the election symbol of the Samajwadi Party (SP) became the target of BJP leaders after Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an election rally in Hardoi on Sunday (February 20) appeared to link the SP’s symbol with the 2008 Ahmedabad terror blasts.

Samajwadi Party’s election symbol

Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav founded the SP on October 4, 1992, and the party was allotted bicycle as its symbol for the UP Assembly election in 1993.

The SP contested 256 seats, and won 109. Mulayam became Chief Minister for the second time.

Mulayam had been Chief Minister earlier from 1989 to 1991, but he was then a part of the Janata Dal, whose election symbol was wheel.

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Mulayam had earlier contested elections on symbols of other parties. He won his first Assembly election in 1967 as a candidate of the Samyukta Socialist Party, which had ‘bargad’ or banyan tree as its election symbol.

Mulayam went on to be elected MLA for seven more terms until 1996. Before he founded the SP in 1992, Mulayam also contested on symbols like ‘bailon ki jodi’ (pair of oxen), and ‘Kandhe par hal dhare kisan’ (farmer with plough). The latter was the symbol of the Janata Party, and Mulayam was elected as its candidate from Jaswant Nagar in 1991.

Symbolism of the bicycle

“When it came to selecting an election symbol for the 1993 Assembly polls, Netaji (Mulayam) and other senior leaders picked bicycle (from among available choices) as the symbol,” Naresh Uttam Patel, UP president of Samajwadi Party, said.

This was because, Patel said, “in that period, the bicycle was the vehicle of farmers, the poor, labourers, and the middle class, and riding a bicycle was cheaper and good for health as well”.

The SP has contested all elections on the bicycle symbol ever since, Patel said.

While building and expanding his party, Mulayam and his younger brother Shivpal Singh Yadav would frequently ride bicycles. Mulayam continued to ride a bicycle during canvassing even after becoming Chief Minister.

Shivpal formed a different party, Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (PSP-Lohia), after differences with Akhilesh, but he is contesting the current Assembly election from Jaswant Nagar on the SP’s bicycle symbol.

Patel recalled that during the previous Akhilesh Yadav government, bicycle tracks had been built in cities across the state, and bicycles had been distributed to girl students and labourers.

On the PM’s remark on the SP’s election symbol, Patel said, “PM does jumlebaazi with such remarks. His government has no concern for inflation, unemployment, and farmers. The PM works for rich industrialists, while the SP’s bicycle is associated with the poor and farmers.”

SP founder member and Uttarakhand State president Satyanarayan Sachan said that even after becoming MLA for three terms, Mulayam rode a bicycle till 1977. “Later some other party leader collected money and bought a car for him,” Sachan said.

He added that the bicycle symbol reflects the party’s dedication and commitment for the poor, Dalits, farmers, and labourer classes. “Its two wheels stand for the way society and socialists keep moving, while its handle is for balancing,” Sachan said.

He said that even outside UP, the SP contests Assembly elections on the bicycle symbol.

Before the 2012 elections, in which the SP won an absolute majority, Akhilesh Yadav had taken out cycle yatras across the state to mobilise workers and voters. Even now, he gives interviews while riding a bicycle, even though his campaigns in both 2017 and 2022 have been carried out on modified chariots. However, other SP leaders took out bicycle yatras in their districts ahead of these elections.

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