Lucknow: Seeking to send a message of unity in the ruling Samajwadi Party which has been battling a bitter power struggle, Mulayam Singh Yadav on Thursday flagged off son and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav's rath yatra in the presence of state SP chief and warring brother Shivpal Yadav.
However, Akhilesh's hi-tech rath broke down after barely traveling 1 kilometre. Thereafter, Akhilesh had to continue his state-wide tour in his car.
After leaving the La-Martinere College grounds and hitting Lohia Path at a stone's throw distance from the venue, the blazing red 10-wheel Mercedes 'rath' developed some technical snag following which Akhilesh shifted to his official SUV.
The CM waited anxiously for the repair work to be over, but as it took time, he decided to go ahead in his official SUV.
Re-designed keeping in mind security and other requirements of the CM, the Mercedes bus has world class interiors and is equipped with top-of-the-line gadgets and amenities.
It has bullet proof glasses and is divided into two sectors -- office and beyond. The office area is like a mini-chief minister's office wherein the CM can hold a meeting with around 5-6 persons.
The other area comprises a kitchen, reclining area and plush washroom.
It has modern acoustic system and an elevator which would take the CM to the roof to interact with a larger audience.
It has a network-enabled Internet facility with 4G speed to keep the twitter-savvy CM always connected. He can also make video calls from the rath, which was customised at a cost of Rs 5 crore. The party has not disclosed the cost officially.
The royal vehicle is fitted with LED screens to play creatives (videos, photos, photo videos) showcasing the achievements of the Akhilesh Yadav government.
Earlier, Mulayam took a seat on the stage and was flanked by Shivpal on one side and Akhilesh on the other to send a message that the party was united ahead of the upcoming UP Assemly elections barely a few months away.
Seen as a showdown or show of strength just two days ahead of another gala event to mark SP's silver jubilee, all eyes were on party patriarch Mulayam and Shivpal, the state unit chief, whose presence reflected that the feuding party members were ostensibly willing to cast aside their differences to put up a united front during the 2017 UP polls.
The enthusiasm among the youth leaders was palpable right since early morning with hordes of young party workers donning red cap making a bee line to the venue, the very place where Akhilesh took oath as chief minister in 2012.
As some youths jostled to reach the venue, Shivpal advised them to calm down. "Don't lose your cool in enthusiasm," he said.
Ahead of the flag off event, Ramgopal Yadav's son and MP Akshay Yadav said, "People will vote for Akhilesh. We will contest in his name and win."
The presence of Mulayam, Shivpal and Akhilesh on one platform came days and months after bitter acrimony in the Yadav clan that saw no holds barred tit-for-tat sackings and expulsions of followers of warring camps.
Speaking at the event, SP’s UP party chief Shivpal Yadav said, “I wish all the best to Akhilesh and congratulate him for the Vikas Rath Yatra.”
“Our goal is to prevent BJP from forming a government in UP,” Shivpal added.
Taking a jibe at the BJP, state Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, speaking at the flagging off ceremony, said, "Parties have mislead the people. On the one hand they talk of army pride, while our jawans are killing themselves on the other hand."
"Uttar Pradesh election is an election to change country's politics," he added.
Claiming that the party has succeeded in uniting everyone in the state, from villages to cities, he said, "Netaji has started this custom of rath yatra. I am glad that I am getting the opportunity to flag off the third rath yatra. It will be my attempt starting today to visit as many people of UP as possible."
Acknowledging that there were problems within the party, Akhilesh said that the rath yatra should have started much earlier, but was delayed due to 'some issues'.
Flagging off the bright red Mercedes Benz 'rath', Mulayam Singh advised Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit families of martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the country.
"As the defence minister, I used to visit families of martyr soldiers. I want our PM to visit their families. I salute their families and want to say that they might be having grief but they should be proud that their son died while securing our borders," he said.
Mentioning difference of opinion over naming the yatra, Mulayam said, "I had suggested Akhilesh to put 'Vijay' (victory) first and 'Vikas' after it. But he did not do that.
"I congratulate Akhilesh for the yatra and wish him all success," he added.
The over 60-km yatra route from Lucknow to Unnao is dotted with hoardings, banners and colourful arches to welcome the chief minister.
The rath yatra will pass through the areas such as Lohia Path, Gomtinagar, Gomtinagar Extension and Kanpur Road, in the city. Schools falling within the purview of the rally are shut....