The conflict over the presidential voting shows there is no possible truce in sight in the near term in the Samajwadi Party family feud.
As soon as he stepped out of the polling booth in UP Assembly, senior Samajwadi Party leader Shivpal Singh Yadav announced his support for the NDA presidential candidate.
“As per instructions of Netaji, I along with other SP MLAs voted for Ram Nath Kovind Ji,” he tweeted.
But many in the party are refuting his claim.
Sources in the party told ThePrint that no MLA accompanied Shivpal when he made the statement outside the polling booth. Apart from customary greetings, the MLAs preferred to maintain a safe distance from him.
On the other hand, the rival Akhilesh Yadav faction of the party was confident of their MLAs’ support for UPA nominee Meira Kumar.
Sources close to Akhilesh Yadav provided ThePrint details of how the MLAs voted in the election.
Abrar Ahmed, SP MLA from Isauli, was willing to vote with Shivpal in favour of Kovind. But he has been in a hospital in Kanpur due to an illness.
On Sunday evening, the doctors cleared him to travel to Lucknow to cast his vote. But on Monday, the doctors changed their mind and expressed concerns over his travel from Kanpur to Lucknow and Ahmed couldn’t come to vote at the last moment.
SP has 47 MLAs in the assembly and according to the Akhilesh camp, 45 of them voted for Meira Kumar. “We conducted discussions with every MLA yesterday and this morning and are quite sure of their support to the UPA nominee,” said a party source.
However, Shivpal managed to woo Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya, an independent MLA from Pratapgarh and a former minister in Akhilesh Yadav government. “We could have managed Raja Bhaiya too, but Akhilesh Ji left it to him to decide his vote,” said the source in the Akhilesh camp.
Shivpal also convinced lone Nishad party MLA Vijay Mishra to vote for Kovind.
Since the BJP announced Ram Nath Kovind as its presidential nominee, Samajwadi Party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav had openly supported him. On 20 June, he said: “BJP has given a good candidate and I have personal relations with him.” That was a clear indication of his willingness to support Kovind and go against the party line.
On 14 July, UPA presidential nominee Meira Kumar was in Lucknow and she was welcomed by Akhilesh Yadav at the party office. Apart from Shivpal, the MLA from Rampur, Azam Khan was also absent from the meeting raising speculation that he might follow Mulayam.
But Khan told ThePrint he had voted for Kumar.
The conflict over the presidential voting shows that there is no possible truce in sight in the near term in the family feud of Samajwadi Party.