A DAY after BSP chief Mayawati announced that her party will stage dharnas on the 11th of every month, demanding a ban on the use of EVMs in elections, SP national president and outgoing chief minister Akhilesh Yadav too on Thursday demanded that ballot papers be used instead of EVMs in all future polls.
Akhilesh raised the demand during his meeting with SP’s newly elected MLAs at the party state headquarters in Lucknow. Shivpal Yadav, his warring uncle, too shared stage with him. This was the first time since the bitter family feud that the two attended a meeting together.
SP chief spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary told mediapersons that in the meeting, Akhilesh said the party had raised the demand to conduct future elections with ballot papers. Leaders have also been asked to collect evidence about alleged tampering of EVMs in their constituencies, he added.
“Akhilesh congratulated all the 47 MLAs for their victory in adverse conditions when top BJP leaders and Union ministers were campaigning and misleading the voters,” said Chaudhary.
SP MLA from Sisamau in Kanpur, Haji Irfan Solanki, said: “Akhilesh asked MLAs to submit reports on EVM tampering, along with evidence, so that the party can move court. He also encouraged the MLAs, saying that SP will win in the 2022 UP elections after a struggle for the next five years.”
While addressing the MLAs, Akhilesh reportedly asked them to raise their voice both inside and outside the Assembly against “anti-people decisions of the BJP government and to fight for its ideologies”. He also asked MLAs to make the people aware of the development works carried out by the SP regime so that the BJP government is not able to take credit for the same.
While Chaudhary claimed that no discussion was held on party’s performance in the elections, sources said a senior leader pointed out: “SP failed to beat BJP in reaching out to the masses because while BJP leaders were canvassing on 40 helicopters, SP campaigned with only three choppers.” Akhilesh, his wife Dimple and senior leader Azam Khan were the only ones who used the three choppers to campaign.
Meanwhile, at the meeting, the MLAs authorised Akhilesh to choose the party leader in the Assembly, who in turn would become the Leader of Opposition (LoP) automatically as SP is the largest party in the Opposition bloc.
Shivpal, MLA from Jaswant Nagar in Etawah, reached the party office where he first met Akhilesh and Azam in the outgoing CM’s office. Later, at the meeting with the MLAs, while Akhilesh, Azam and party state president Naresh Uttam, sat on the stage, Shivpal sat among legislators in the tenth row. Later, Azam walked over to Shivpal and asked him to join them on the stage. Though Shivpal did shift to the dais, sources claimed he and Akhilesh did not speak to each other.
Leaders said that during the meeting, Shivpal indirectly spoke on the candidates appointed by him, who were changed by Akhilesh in the run-up to the polls.
“He said while the party had done a lot of development works across the state, it could get its equations right in the elections,” said a leader.