New Delhi/Lucknow: In a development that may have deep ramifications on the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, the Election Commission (EC) on Monday recognised the faction led by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav as the Samajwadi Party and allotted it the 'cycle' symbol.
Leaders like Lalu Prasad and Mamata Banerjee, who have expressed sympathy and support from Akhilesh Yadav in the family feud, expressed satisfied with the development, the Congress spoke of a possible alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP)-- a sentiment reciprocated by a vocal Samajwadi Party MP.
The EC decided in favour of the Akhilesh-led faction after hearing both parties through their lawyers for several hours on January 13.
"The Commission hereby holds that the group led by Shri Akhilesh Yadav is the Samajwadi Party and is entitled to use its name and its reserved symbol 'cycle'," it said.
Soon after the EC pronounced its verdict, Akhilesh went to meet father Mulayam Singh at his residence and sought his blessings. It was not known exactly what transpired in the father-son meeting.
The EC noted that while the Akhilesh faction submitted individual affidavits of the members of the legislature and organisational wings in support of its claim of the majority support, the Mulayam faction failed to provide any such affidavit despite repeated calls.
The Akhilesh faction claimed the support of -- and backed it with individual affidavits -- 205 (out of 228) MLAs, 56 (out of 68) MLCs, 15 (out of 24) MPs, 28 (out of 46) national executive members and 4,400 (out of 5,731) national convention delegates.
"On the other hand, Shri Mulayam Singh Yadav, with his reply dated January 9, 2017, did not file any affidavit (except his own affidavit) of any Member of Parliament or state legislature or of any delegate," the EC noted in its order.
"Nor did he (Mulayam Singh) make claim of any support among the aforesaid category of members for his group, in spite of the fact that he had been specifically directed to file all such affidavits in support of his claim," it added.
The EC said "a mere look at the figures given above" would suffice to conclude that "Akhilesh Yadav enjoys overwhelming majority support, both among legislators and organisational wing of the party".
In a related development, Congress's UP Chief Ministerial candidate Sheila Dikshit said that she will step down if asked to.
"If I am asked to step down then I will do it... there can't be two chief ministerial candidates," Dikshit told reporters.
The Congress sentiment was reciprocated by Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Aggarwal who said that he supports his party forming an alliance with the Congress in the upcoming assembly elections.
Speaking to news channel Times Now, Aggarwal said: "This (alliance) is to be decided by the Chief Minister and I also support it."
Reacting to the development, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad advised SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav to bless his son and mend the broken bonds.
Advising both Mulayam and Akhilesh not to fight, he said that its very important for them to unite to stop the "communal forces".
Banerjee congratulated Akhilesh Yadav, saying he "deserved" the Samajwadi Party's bicycle symbol.
"Congratulations @yadavakhilesh for getting SP symbol. You deserve it," the Trinamool Congress supremo tweeted.
The EC announcement triggered wild celebrations by Akhilesh supporters in Lucknow.
A beaming Ram Gopal Yadav, who led his faction's fight at the EC, told reporters: "This is a just decision. The Election Commission will get the blessings of crores of people of Uttar Pradesh."
The Samajwadi Party formally split on January 1 when Ram Gopal Yadav, as the party's General Secretary, called the national convention of the party where Akhilesh Yadav was declared the party chief in place of his father Mulayam Singh.
Subsequently, both factions then petitioned the Election Commission to allot it the party symbol.