The sharp differences within the Samajwadi Party (SP) may again come to the fore during voting for the presidential poll. While SP president Akhilesh Yadav has instructed party MLAs to vote for opposition candidate Meira Kumar, SP patron Mulayam Singh Yadav and his brother Shivpal Yadav might go in favour of NDA's nominee Ram Nath Kovind.
SP spokesman Rajendra Chaudhary said that Akhilesh Yadav has given instruction to his MLAs to vote for Kumar. The opposition presidential nominee, during a day's visit to the city earlier today, met Akhilesh at the party office before meeting BSP supremo Mayawati to seek votes.
"Today Meira Kumar visited the SP headquarters and met Akhilesh and SP MLAs to seek their support," Chaudhary said. "Akhilesh has asked SP MLAs to vote for Kumar."
Another Samajwadi Party leader Ram Govind Chaudhary, who is also the leader of the opposition, said, "Everyone should support Kumar."
Meanwhile, Shivpal's loyalist Deepak Mishra, though not a voter, said, "we pledge open support to Kovind". He thanked the Prime Minister for his selection.
Mulayam's vote for Kovind became a foregone conclusion the very day he openly described him as a "strong candidate". "Ram Nath Kovind is a good candidate. I have a very old relation with him. BJP has selected a strong candidate. The most important thing is that the BJP has a majority," Mulayam had said last month.
Shivpal, too, had said he would do as advised by his brother. "Netaji (Mulayam) jo kahenge wahi hoga" (Whatever netaji says will happen)," he said.
During Prime Minister Narendra Modi's last visit to Lucknow on June 20, Mulayam had met him at a dinner hosted by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, sending clear signals that he would back the NDA nominee.
Significantly, the dinner was skipped by Akhilesh and Mayawati, who are supporting the opposition's candidate. Mulayam was removed from the party's national president post and made a patron by Akhilesh in January at the peak of the dissidence in the party.
Senior Samajwadi Party leader and leader of the opposition in the UP Assembly Ram Govind Chaudhary said everyone should support Kumar.