Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh's ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) on Thursday appeared to be headed for a vertical split, with Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav releasing his own list of 235 candidates, a day after his father and SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav had released the official list.
Some pro-Akhilesh Yadav MLAs earlier said the unhappy Chief Minister was likely to release a parallel list of candidates for Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.
Sources in the disgruntled camp said Akhilesh had even prepared a list of 167 candidates to be pitted against SP's official nominees.
Unhappy with the list released by his father and SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav on Wednesday, the Chief Minister held a meeting with his loyalists, including MLAs, who have been denied tickets. Afterwards, SP MLA Indal Singh said, "Akhilesh is likely to announce his own list of candidates."
These candidates were likely to contest on a separate symbol, other than SP's 'Cycle' symbol, paving the way for a wide split in the party grappling with dissensions and unprecedented feud at a time when the crucial polls were knocking at the door.
Today's showdown, the worst in the last few months, reached a flashpoint after Mulayam publicly snubbed his son by announcing a list of candidates that created bitterness in the pro-CM camp, prompting the upset chief minister to take up the matter with the SP supremo to convey his strong displeasure over the choice of names.
"The Chief Minister called us. He instructed us to go to our respective constituencies and prepare for the elections," Indal Singh, SP MLAs from Malihabad, said after Akhilesh on Thursday met legislators denied ticket.
On a day of hectic political developments, Akhilesh met the disgruntled MLAs at his 5-Kalidas Marg residence in the morning and drove straight to Mulayam's residence to convey the belligerent mood of those who did not get re-nomination.
Akhilesh was again closetted with his close confidants soon afterwards to decide the next course of action, while Mulayam summoned Shivpal to gauge the mood of rebels.
"We will go to our constituencies, work hard, and again make Akhilesh our CM," said another MLA, Pawan Pandey, whose ticket was cut. Pandey, although expelled from SP, continues to be a minister in the Akhilesh government.
"We will contest the upcoming elections, come what may," said a defiant MLA Atul Pradhan.
"The Chief Minister has done a lot for the development of the state and we will contest and win in his name," he said.
In a new twist to the day-long high drama, Mulayam's cousin and SP General Secretary Ramgopal Yadav said many in the party do not want to see Akhilesh as chief minister again.
"But, the fact remains that people of the state want him back as CM," he claimed.
The factional feud in the Samajwadi Party came out in the open a day after Mulayam declared candidates for 325 of the 403 Assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh and ruled out projecting Akhilesh as the Chief Ministerial candidate.