THE ELECTION Commission has reserved its order on the dispute within the Samajwadi Party over the choice of ‘cycle’ as election symbol after hearing arguments of the two warring factions — led by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his father Mulayam Singh Yadav — for close to five hours Friday. The commission is expected to pass an interim order before the notification of polls in Uttar Pradesh on January 17. Elections will be held in seven phases in the state starting February 11. Votes will be counted on March 11.
According to sources, the primary question before the EC is whether there’s a split in the party, after Mulayam’s lawyers insisted that the SP was united. “If the EC decides that the party isn’t together then, as an interim measure, it will freeze the ‘cycle’ symbol and ask the two factions to fight the upcoming elections under different names and symbols,” said sources.
While the Akhilesh faction was represented by senior counsels Rajeev Dhavan and Kapil Sibal, his father’s camp had roped in former solicitor general Mohan Parasaran and senior lawyer RC Dhingra. Mulayam was present during the hearing, while Ram Gopal Yadav represented Akhilesh. Allowed to present their arguments first, Sibal and Dhawan cited past precedent and the Symbols Order of 1968 to argue that since the numbers were stacked in favour of Akhilesh, the symbol should go to him.
“They (the Mulayam camp) want the EC to decide who is the president of the party and also whether the convention held on January 1 was illegal or not. We argued that as per the Symbols Order and the Supreme Court verdict, the commission only needs to decide which of the two groups has the support of the majority of party delegates and legislators,” Dhawan told reporters.
However, Parasaran insisted there was no split in the party and, therefore, there was no question of allocating the symbol to any one faction. The former solicitor general also argued that since no resolution was passed during the convention called by the Akhilesh camp on January 1, the party remains united.
The Mulayam camp also questioned the authenticity of the affidavits of support from party delegates and legislators submitted by Ram Gopal Yadav. “Some of the affidavits are of deceased party members and some members are in coma,” Dhingra told reporters.
Sibal is learnt to have drawn the commission’s attention to the fact that the opposing group had presented no evidence to either support its claim that the party was united or show that a majority of legislators and party delegates were behind Mulayam.
Sibal pointed out that the EC’s notice announcing the hearing date, which was sent to both factions, clearly states that the case, prima facie, is of a split. Akhilesh’s legal team then said that SP MP Amar Singh’s letter, dated January 4, addressed to the EC also acknowledged a split in the party.
The war over the ‘cycle’ reached the ECI doorstep on January 2, when Mulayam, Amar Singh, Jaya Prada and Shivpal Singh Yadav met election commissioners Nasim Zaidi, O P Rawat and A K Joti. They claimed that the January 1 convention, in which Akhilesh was elected as party president, was illegal and that Ram Gopal has been expelled from the party.
Subsequently, Ram Gopal met the commission the next day on behalf of Akhilesh and staked claim to the party and its election symbol. As first reported by The Indian Express on January 5, the commission then wrote to the two factions seeking a show of strength and also sought comments to each other’s representations submitted to the EC. After studying their responses, the EC had fixed the hearing for Friday.