Samajwadi Party chieftain Mulayam Singh Yadav’s on and off support for son Akhilesh is playing havoc with the latter’s campaign. Just last week, Mulayam addressed a rally in his home constituency of Jaswant Nagar in Etawah to seek support for brother Shivpal who has taken over the seat now. But in the course of his 30 minute speech, Mulayam also asked the crowd to vote for the Lok Dal candidate in the neighbouring Etawah Sadar seat.

His appeal was a bombshell because Akhilesh’s SP has a candidate contesting from that very seat. But Mulayam announced backing for his rival from Lok Dal who is a loyalist of his and Shivpal’s. Apparently, the brothers had sought a ticket for the loyalist but Akhilesh struck his name off the list and denied him an SP nomination.

Shivpal promptly got him a ticket from Lok Dal, a small local party that has no seats in the UP assembly currently. Lok Dal should not be confused with Ajit Singh’s RLD which has also put up candidates across UP including in the Yadav belt of Etawah and Mainpuri.

It seems Shivpal has sent 40 odd of his candidates over to Lok Dal and some half dozen to RLD after Akhilesh refused to give them tickets on the SP symbol. Most of these are SP old timers and supporters of Mulayam too.

Mulayam’s bombshell in Jaswant Nagar seeking votes for the LD nominee seems to have rattled Akhilesh. The UP chief minister is believed to have sent word to district magistrates in different areas that Mulayam Singh will not be campaigning. He has told them not to make arrangements for the SP supremo even if a request comes from Mulayam’s office that he wants to address a rally.

Akhilesh has a tough fight on his hands in the third phase. This is, in fact, the most critical phase for Akhilesh. The big Yadav belt in Rohailkhand and central UP will vote in this phase and Mulayam and Shivpal carry a lot of influence in this region. Akhilesh is doing desperate damage control to counter their subterranean efforts to scuttle his chances here. 

Musical chairs

The fluid political scenario in Tamil Nadu has plunged AIADMK Rajya Sabha MP V Maitreyan into a game of musical chairs. His seat in the Upper House keeps changing with his fluctuating political fortunes.
When he was Jayalalitha’s blue-eyed boy, Maitreyan was appointed AIADMK parliamentary party leader in the Rajya Sabha. This entitled him to a seat in the front row.

His flirtation with the BJP and frequent meetings with Narendra Modi upset Jayalalitha. She demoted him soon after the Lok Sabha elections. Maitreyan lost his prestigious front row seat and was unceremoniously shoved to the last row on Jayalalitha’s orders.

After her death, when O Paneerselvam became chief minister, Maitreyan’s fortunes blossomed again. He is close to OPS. Notice how he came out in support of OPS when he fired all those salvos at Sasikala. Anyway, OPS ensured that Maitreyan was moved up in seating hierarchy in the Rajya Sabha. From the back row, he shifted to the fourth row.

Now a request has gone to the Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari from the AIADMK that Maitreyan be moved back to the last row again. This happened after Maitreyan spoke up for OPS against Sasikala. So far, the Rajya Sabha Secretariat has not responded. Maybe it is waiting and watching to see what the outcome is of the Sasikala versus OPS battle.

Back in action

Congress election strategist Prashant Kishore is back in action in UP. And this time, he has been given the space that he always insists on when he is in thick of election management. He is working from Akhilesh Yadav’s chief ministerial office on Kalidas Marg in Lucknow.

This is Kishore’s style. When he was Narendra Modi’s strategist for the 2014 Lok Sabha election, he moved into the CM’s residence in Gujarat. When he joined Nitish Kumar for the 2015 Bihar assembly polls, he shifted into a room in the CM’s residence-cum-office in Patna.

But the Congress did not bestow the same favour on him. When he first joined the Congress as its strategist for the 2017 assembly polls, he wanted space in the party war room on Gurudwara Rakabganj Road. But the Congress establishment managed to keep Kishore out.

In fact, the old guard pushed Kishore to the margins in UP. He earned the old guard’s wrath when he went public with his negotiations for a Congress-SP tie-up. He came back into the picture only when the talks with SP started floundering. Rahul and Priyanka turned to him for help. After all, he achieved the impossible by getting Nitish and Lalu together and working out a winning alliance. Once the deal with SP was sealed, Kishore was back in business 
in UP.

He is now in charge of all communication management and plans the joint rallies and roadshows for Akhilesh and Rahul. He is the one who coined the new slogan for the alliance: UP ko yeh saath pasand hai.