There was confusion over whether Netaji would campaign; the presence of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav is sufficient to attract voters; both are big leaders. Read between the lines of what SP candidates across UP have to say about their “star campaigner”, and the big picture is clear: the loneliness of Mulayam Singh Yadav.
With the second phase of voting in the assembly election getting over Wednesday, this is perhaps the first time since he founded the SP that Mulayam has found himself out of the campaign limelight for so long. The two phases include 140 seats, of which the SP won 58 in 2012.
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Virtually sidelined after his son Akhilesh took over the party in January, following a bitter internal tussle, Mulayam has so far attended rallies only for brother Shivpal Yadav at Jaswant Nagar in Etawah on February 11 and 13. On Wednesday, he is scheduled to attend a public meeting for daughter-in-law Aparna Yadav, the wife of his second son Prateek, at Cantonment in Lucknow. Both seats go to polls in the third phase on February 19.
Last month, Mulayam had announced that he would not campaign for the SP-Congress alliance, as he was against the tie-up. But he appeared to have changed his mind a few days later, when he said he would campaign for his party’s candidates.
And yet, party sources said that despite his name topping the list of SP’s star campaigners, there are no plans so far for Mulayam to canvas for any other candidate. Mulayam’s isolation is most visible on the ground.
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Says Mohammad Faeem, SP candidate from Bilari in Moradabad, “I did not invite Netaji to hold an election meeting because there was hardly any time left for canvassing. Instead, I invited Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadavji and Minister Azam Khan. The presence of Akhilesh is sufficient to attract voters.”
Ghulam Mohammad, sitting SP MLA and candidate from Siwalkhas in Meerut, which was part of the first phase of polling on February 11, says, “There was confusion over whether Netaji would campaign or not. That’s why I did not request his presence for rallies. I invited the Chief Minister who addressed a public meeting. I do not find any difference between Akhileshji and Netaji because the policies of SP are still the same.”
During the 2012 assembly polls, Mulayam had addressed a joint rally for Mohammad and other SP candidates in Meerut.
Ata-ur-Rehman, two-time SP MLA from Bahedi in Bareilly, which votes Wednesday, says, “I had invited Netaji to hold a rally but he did not come. Akhileshji had come to the adjoining Bhojipura constituency where I went to meet him. But we took Netaji’s name in slogans and used his images during canvassing. Netaji is the patron of the party and his blessings are with Akhileshji. I appealed for votes with the slogan ‘Netaji ke naam par, Akhilesh ke kaam par’ (Vote in the name of Netaji and for the work done by Akhileshji).”
Pramod Tyagi, SP candidate from Budhana in Muzaffarnagar, says he invited Akhilesh and Mulayam but only the Chief Minister came. “Netaji and Akhileshji are big leaders. Muslims voters like both of them,” says Tyagi.
Asked about the absence of Mulayam in the campaign, SP’s Rajya Sabha MP and national general secretary Surendra Singh Nagar told The Indian Express: “Netaji is keeping a watch on the elections and monitors feedback. His blessings are with Akhileshji, and he wants his son to become Chief Minister again.”