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Ranks prod Akhilesh to stand his ground

Lucknow, Jan. 10: Akhilesh Yadav's backers in the Samajwadi Party told him this afternoon that they wouldn't withdraw the January 1 resolution replacing Mulayam Singh Yadav with the Uttar Pradesh chief minister as national president of the party.

The development came after a two-hour meeting between Akhilesh, who has the support of the majority of the SP's legislators, and father Mulayam failed to break the deadlock in the party.

At a disputed convention convened by Akhilesh on January 1, party patriarch Mulayam's brother Shivpal Yadav had been removed from the post of the state president of the SP and Rajya Sabha member Amar Singh had been suspended from the party.

"We want you to continue as our party's national president with Netaji (Mulayam) as our patron. But whatever Netaji is saying appears scripted by Shivpal and Amar to trap you in the long run," a senior SP leader was quoted as telling Akhilesh at his Kalidas Marg residence after this morning's father-son meeting.

Juhie Singh, spokesperson of the SP's Uttar Pradesh unit, made it clear that the party was prepared to go ahead with Akhilesh as its face for the Assembly elections and put the onus of resolving the impasse on Mulayam.

"Netaji can solve the dispute easily. Otherwise, we are prepared to enter the Assembly polls with Akhilesh as our face," she said.

Earlier in the day, Akhilesh, along with his daughters Tina and Aditi, met Mulayam at his home over breakfast and discussed some of the issues affecting the party.

Sources close to the father and son said Akhilesh told his supporters after the meeting that whatever his father was saying "might be the words of Shivpal and Amar, who have been hatching conspiracies for long to marginalise him in the party and the family".

"Mulayam asked Akhilesh to withdraw his claim to the Election Commission for the party symbol and accept him as the national president of the SP," a senior leader who is close to both said.

Ram Gopal Yadav, Mulayam's cousin and Akhilesh's chief adviser, had written to the poll panel, informing it that Akhilesh was the new national president of the SP and the party's "cycle" symbol should be allotted to his group.

Mulayam too has staked claim to the party and its symbol. The commission today fixed January 13 as the date of hearing of the dispute between the Akhilesh and Mulayam lobbies over the party symbol.

"Mulayam today accepted Akhilesh's demand that all 403 poll candidates would be selected by his son after consulting him. But he did not accept Akhilesh's demand that the other disputes be resolved as well. Akhilesh didn't make any commitments to his father," the SP leader added.

After coming out of Mulayam's house, Akhilesh asked his party members to return to their respective areas and start campaigning for the elections. The houses of Mulayam and Akhilesh are separated by a common wall.

"Reach your constituencies and tell the voters about our development schemes. I will visit your areas according to my schedule," Akhilesh said.

Mulayam had said yesterday that Akhilesh would be chief minister again and the "minor disputes" would be sorted out soon.

This morning, Mulayam visited Lucknow's Teele Wali Masjid to pay his condolences to the family and followers of Maulana Fazal-ur-Rahman, who passed away last night.

"We were friends since 1975 and used to meet regularly. We had met last month also," Mulayam, who has received the support of the minority community for long, told reporters.

Sources at Teele Wali Masjid or Alamgiri Mosque claimed Mulayam had not met Rahman in the last three years.

Mulayam is known to take the blessings of clerics in public during elections. Rahman was one of the senior-most Islamic preachers in Lucknow and had been attached to the mosque for the past 50 years.

Azam Khan, a Mulayam aide and urban development minister in the Akhilesh cabinet, had said yesterday that the minority community was "disillusioned" with the bickering in the Samajwadi family.

"I am telling them that there is haze but there is no darkness," Azam had said, holding out hope of a reconciliation.


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