New Delhi: With less than a year left for the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav has signalled zero tolerance towards corruption and candidates with criminal background. Soon after alleged gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari’s Quami Ekta Dal merged with Samajwadi Party (SP), Akhilesh Yadav is planning to take up the issue with party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav during a high-level meeting of party leaders on 25 June, said senior SP leaders.

“Akhilesh Yadav is annoyed with the merger. He believes that it will bring a bad name to the party and SP will lose the perception battle in the state much before the assembly elections. Akhilesh Yadav has distanced himself from all tainted members of SP, it is a clever ploy. But this decision of merger will impact the party’s chances of coming back to power in the state. It is expected that the decision of the merger with Ansari’s party will be taken up for review during the meeting on 25 June," said a senior SP leader based in Lucknow.

SP leaders believe that if Akhilesh Yadav is able to convince Mulayam Singh Yadav and other senior leaders of his party, then this merger can be called off.

Members of the SP argue that since Akhilesh Yadav was not consulted by Shivpal Yadav, brother of Mulayam Singh Yadav, on the merger, Akhilesh Yadav sacked Balram Yadav, a senior minister in his cabinet, who acted as the go-between for the political deal. “The message from Akhilesh Yadav is loud and clear, he wants to stay away from people who can harm the prospects of the party. He wants SP to go for an image makeover and not form an alliance with people who are tainted and have a criminal background," the SP leader added.

Interestingly, this is not the first time when Akhilesh Yadav has raised his voice against alleged criminal elements joining SP. Just before the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections in 2012 when alleged gangster-turned-politician D.P. Yadav was supposed to join hands with SP, Akhilesh Yadav stepped in at the last minute to cancel the political alliance.

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“D.P. Yadav was told by senior SP leaders that there would be no alliance with him even though SP had made a public announcement that the party will join hands with him. The decision of not allowing D.P. Yadav to join SP was taken by Akhilesh Yadav. Similarly, Raja Bhaiya or Raghuraj Pratap Singh, who enjoys a cabinet rank in the SP government, was asked to step down when the Central Bureau of Investigation booked him in a murder case in March 2013. There are many examples to show that Akhilesh Yadav doesn’t want SP to join hands with the corrupt and people with alleged criminal backgrounds," the SP leader added.

Analysts feel that this development might hamper Akhilesh Yadav’s efforts of distancing himself and the party from such elements and projecting himself as a clean, development-oriented leader.

“The alliance will definitely benefit SP in a few seats, however at the cost of the pro-development image that Akhilesh Yadav has been trying to create ever since he came to power. People will think that all the development work being carried out is an eyewash. A clean image is the only trump card that the CM has to fight the rising anti-incumbency in the state. However, in this fight the biggest challenge seems to be coming from Akhilesh’s own family and the party’s core members," said Lucknow- based political analyst Ramesh Dixit.

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