Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party again revived talk of an early general election by releasing a list of candidates on Friday for the Lok Sabha polls, a good 18 months before polls are scheduled. The list comes less than 24 hours after the Congress also began its election preparation in earnest, with the anointing of Rahul Gandhi as the head of its election committee.
Mr Yadav's son Akhilesh, who is also the Uttar Pradesh chief minister, said that candidates have been announced early to improve preparedness. "A majority of the assembly poll candidates were also announced a year early," he told NDTV. This list of 55, with the rest of the 35 coming soon, means the Samajwadi Party will fight alone in 2014.
The timing of the list is politically loaded, coming less than a week before the Winter Session of Parliament, where the Samajwadi Party's outside support to the UPA government will be critical to ward off Opposition pressure over Foreign Direct Investment in multi-brand retail, among other issues.
The release of the list is also being read as Mr Yadav's signal to prepare for the eventuality of an early poll as well as an indication to the Congress-led UPA that its support in Parliament can't be taken for granted. The Samajwadi Party, analysts have pointed out, could gain from this since it has just swept Uttar Pradesh in the assembly elections. The goodwill might wear out the later the polls are, in the Samajwadi Party's calculations. The BJP has already said that the announcement of the Congress' election panel is a sign of that.
But talk of early general elections was dismissed by information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari, who said at a press briefing, "Since the UPA-II government was formed, there have been no two months without talk of mid-term polls. As far as the government is concerned, we have mandate for five years and we intend to look at elections in 2014."
The UPA government is surviving on the outside support of the Samajwadi Party and its state rival Bahujan Samaj Party, after being reduced to a minority following Mamata Banerjee pulled out to protest the PM's reforms measures. Earlier this week, the Prime Minister hosted Mr Yadav for dinner and Mayawati for lunch to fortify his government ahead of the Winter Session of Parliament which begins on Thursday, November 22.
The government will be tested in the session by the opposition for its decision to allow FDI in retail. Ms Banerjee's Trinamool Congress as well as the Left have already made it clear they will push for a trust vote and a discussion-and-vote motion on this. The BJP is still non-committal, saying that it will wait for a trust vote to be brought first. Mr Yadav has also publicly opposed FDI in retail, front-lining a countrywide protest a couple of months ago. However, he has also said that he will not terminate his support to the UPA because he does not want to involuntarily help "the communal forces" of the BJP. The BSP had not taken part in that protest.
The Samajwadi Party's list of 55 for the 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh includes Mr Yadav as well as his daughter in law Dimple, who will defend her Kannauj seat which she won after her husband Akhilesh vacated it to become the chief minister of the state in March this year. Several sitting MPs have been named on the list, as well as members of the extended Yadav family.
The list surprisingly excludes Rae Bareli and Amethi, the traditional constituencies of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul. When asked if SP would field its candidates from these two constituencies, party spokesman Ram Gopal Yadav said that so far 55 candidates have been decided and the party is yet to decide on the 25 remaining seats.(With inputs from PTI)