New Delhi: In an apparent snub to his son and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on Wednesday released a list of candidates for the state assembly election due in early 2017 and rejected afresh the former’s bid to stitch together an alliance with the Congress.

Rubbing it in further, Mulayam said, “We will not project a chief ministerial candidate. This decision will be taken by the elected MLAs as is the due procedure of the party."

Not only does this reaffirm the rift within the Yadav family, it also suggests the SP is not in the best shape to fight off anti-incumbency and resurgent political rivals like the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The SP chief announced candidates for 325 of the 403 assembly seats while giving tickets to 176 sitting MLAs. The decision comes after Akhilesh, sidelined in the candidate selection process, handed over a list of 403 candidates to his father on Sunday.

The chief minister’s move was in reaction to the party’s state unit president, Shivpal Yadav, releasing the names of 175 candidates—a decision Akhilesh claimed was taken without his knowledge.

“We have declared the list of 325 candidates for the upcoming 2017 assembly polls, 78 seats will be announced soon," Mulayam said while addressing a press conference in Lucknow.

He also said that the election could take place by 28 February.

“Two candidate lists floating in the same party is not a good sign and may indicate a last-minute split in SP. Akhilesh Yadav’s entire career, especially his development work, is at stake in this election. If the party manages to win with the candidates selected by Mulayam Singh and Shivpal Yadav, chances of Akhilesh getting a second term as CM will become very bleak," said A.K. Verma, a Kanpur-based political analyst and professor of political science at Christ Church College.

He added that the parallel list might have been compiled by Akhilesh to pre-empt such a scenario.

Interestingly, Mulayam maintained that all was well within the party. “There has never been any feud in the party in all the elections we have fought till date. Our leaders are disciplined and there is no rift in the party," he said.

Akhilesh Yadav’s sidelining from the ticket distribution process is evident from the fact that the name of Quami Ekta Dal’s (QED) legislator, Sigbatullah Ansari, featured in a list of 23 candidates released on 11 December by Shivpal Yadav.

SP decided to merge alleged gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari’s QED with itself in October. The merger, facilitated by Shivpal Yadav, ignored the opposition of the CM to the move.

The party patriarch also dismissed talk of an alliance with the Congress. “We will not have an alliance with any party," he said.

While Akhilesh had said any decision on an alliance will be taken by Mulayam, he had made no bones about his leaning towards the Congress. “Though Samajwadis are going to form a majority government in the state, but if an alliance with the Congress takes place, it will win over 300 seats. The final decision in this regard will be taken by Netaji (Mulayam)," he had said on 13 December.

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