Burying the hatchet, Mulayam Singh Yadav took the centre seat on the stage and was flanked by Shivpal on one side and Akhilesh Yadav on the other.
Ending days of strife within the ruling Samajwadi Party family, all top faces of the party came together on Thursday to put up a united face as party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav flagged off the Uttar Pradesh chief minister’s Samajwadi Party Rath Yatra from Lucknow in the presence of party state chief Shivpal Yadav.
Burying the hatchet, Mulayam Singh Yadav took the centre seat on the stage and was flanked by Shivpal on one side and Akhilesh Yadav on the other, trying to send a message that the party was united ahead of the upcoming UP assembly elections, which are barely a few months away.
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.
However, as of now, it seems Akhilesh has won round one of the battle of nerves and has been able to bring both father Mulayam and uncle Shivpal on the same page with himself. While flagging off the bright red Mercedes Benz ‘rath’, Mulayam said, “I congratulate Akhilesh for the yatra and wish him all success.” Shivpal said, “I wish Akhilesh well (Akhilesh ko hum shubhkamna detey hain) He added that the “vikas se vijay ki aur yatra” will send a message of unity across the state and halt the BJP in its tracks. “The yatra is being taken out under the leadership of Akhilesh. It will give a message to the entire UP and popularise works being done by our government and ideologies of SP,” he said. He added: “Our target is to prevent the BJP from coming to power in the state in the crucial 2017 elections,” he said.
Before embarking on the highly-publicised rath yatra to highlight development work undertaken by him during the last over four years, the 43-year-old chief minister said that he wanted “to thank Netaji (Mulayam) for flagging off the event,” at the launch at Lucknow’s La Martiniere School. He added, “This UP election will change national politics.”
“The tradition of yatras was started in the state by Netaji and he is taking it out for the third time. I want to thank the youth for this historic event. Netaji had taken out the yatra and I am going on for the yatra for the third time. We appeal to people to vote in favour of our party,” he said.
Mentioning that the yatra had been delayed by about a month, Akhilesh said, “We had to take out the yatra on October 3, but due to certain circumstances, we could not do it. Now, we will try to reach maximum people through the yatra.”
“Elections are round the corner and there will be comparison of works done by government. The Samajwadi Party government has continuously focused on development without discrimination on the basis of caste. This election is decisive in changing politics of the country and SP will form government again in 2017. In future (after 2017) also, only SP and its socialist ideology can bring a change in the country,” the CM said.
Highlighting his government’s works, Akhilesh said his government tried to strike a “balance” in development. “While on the one hand we have constructed the Lucknow Metro and made an expressway for urban development, we have also connected district headquarters by roads… Our schemes of Samajwadi Pension, laptop distribution and Lohia Awas Yojana have benefited people in rural areas,” he said.
All senior leaders including assembly speaker Mata Prasad Pandey, SP vice-president Kironmoy Nanda, Naresh Agarwal, MP Dharmendra Yadav and ministers Rajendra Chowdhury, Manoj Kumar Pandey, Narendra Verma, Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, Balram Yadav, Parasnath Yadav, Vinod Kumar, Rammurti Verma, Raghuraj Pratap Singh and Arvind Singh Gope, among others, were present at the event.
Sounding positive over his party’s success, Akhilesh said, “Due to some conspiracies we were a bit rattled up, but in the days to come we will be able to form government again.”
Addressing slogan-shouting youths at the rally, Mulayam said, “The path of samajwad (socialism) is difficult… I have faced lathis in agitations. This samajwadi movement is made after sacrifices. The Samajwadi Party is a party of sacrifice and struggle. I know when there is lathicharge, every one runs away and only four-five persons stay back,” he said.
Meanwhile, just a few hundred metres into his ‘Vikas Yatra’, Akhilesh had to ditch his Mercedes bus and get into an open SUV to continue his yatra, as his Mercedez-Benz ‘rath’ developed a technical glitch.
Akhilesh’s core team for the yatra is made up of seven youth leaders of the party, all banned by his father and uncle. Sources said Akhilesh plans to use the yatra to prove his popularity and settle the leadership challenge from Shivpal Yadav.
Thousands travelled to gather at the ground to see off the chief minister on the first leg of his tour, a 100-km run that will take him to neighbouring district Unnao.