NEW DELHI: Perhaps the most telling move that seems to justify the strong murmurings in the Samajwadi camp has come from the BJP government at the centre in providing Z category security for Amar Singh, the man credited with the current chaos in Uttar Pradesh’s ruling party. Several party leaders who are supporting Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav have been pointing fingers at Amar Singh, as has indeed the young CM as well, for trying to help the BJP by breaking up the Samajwadi party on the eve of the crucial Assembly elections.

But even as the media, the BJP and the Congress come together to predict the Samajwadi party’s doom, Akhilesh Yadav seems to be rising from strength to strength insofar as public opinion is concerned. And from a hesitant leader, he has emerged very decisively from his fathers shadows to strike out without the baggage of goons and corruption that the party had come to carry.

This is reflected in the groundswell of support for the young CM from within his own party with the majority of legislators and the party members willing to jettison the father for the son. This support also comes from the understanding of the SP leaders that the support at the ground has shifted to Akhilesh Yadav, who is widely perceived as a “sincere, honest, responsive” leader who has in the last two years actually taken measures to develop this backward state. It is interesting to note how even BJP supporters sing the CM’s praises with a well known industrialist of UP confiding, “he starts a project and ensures it is completed in time, that is something I have not seen in this state for a long time.”

There is no likelihood of the legislators deserting him, and opting for Mulayam Singh who is left holding the baggage of corruption and goondaism generally associated with the SP. Despite the poster outside Mulayam Singh’s residence in Delhi that has the line up of the entire family with a black hole where brother Ram Gopal Yadav’s face was (he is with Akhilesh Yadav), it does seem that the President of the party has been left with just the discredited politicians in the party, including those charged with criminal offences.

By opposing Amar Singh who is visibly unpopular in the Samajwadi party, and his father for supporting Singh as well as others in the party seen to be ‘symbols’ of criminality and corruption, Akhilesh Yadav’s stock has risen dramatically in UP. He has in fact, without even trying to in loud words and deeds, become the counterpoint to the ‘clean image’ that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has tried to project through the highly controversial decision to demonetise currency.

PM Modi has been addressing rallies to claim the ‘honest’ lable for himself as the signature for the forthcoming state elections but in UP Akhilesh Yadav who has still to begin his campaign is being seen across castes as the clean and honest leader of the state. The CM, thus is in a formidable position to challenge the BJP on both its corruption and development planks, as he is the one leader of the state who has proven his credentials on both. And is not seen as an outsider, but a man who cares for the state.

At the time of writing this both father and son are meeting the Chief Election Commissioner in turn for the bicycle symbol. As former CEC SY.Qureshi told this writer a few days ago, the EC as per the procedure and the rules will in all probability freeze the symbol, and accord new symbols to each faction. This is the right way out, as even the procedure to determine which leader represents the party takes 3 to 4 months, Qureshi said. In this case both have a claim, one as the president of the Samajwadi party and the other as the Chief Minister with majority support of the legislators. If the CEC follows this, it is likely that both will get different symbols thereby confirming the split.

Popularising a new symbol with a strong organisation such as the SP, is not going to be as difficult as sections of the media are insisting. As Mohan Guruswamy, a former advisor to late Prime Minister V.P.Singh, recalled in a similar warring for the kisan and the hal symbol the EC in 1989-90 had frozen it and given the chakra (wheel) symbol to the Janata Dal at the time. He said that he and former Railway Minister Ajay Singh had together designed a poster focusing on the chakra, that had become the focus for the campaign and was popularised through out India within days. The same can be easily done, Guruswamy noted.

By remaining decisive and refusing to succumb to his fathers pressure to accept candidates he does not see as fit, Akhilesh Yadav has earned the goodwill of all sections of the electorate. In fact on the streets of Lucknow reporters have recorded voices of BJP voters saying, “we are not with the Samajwadi party, but Akhilesh is a good man.” His popularity according to leaders from the Congress party as well, is soaring and many expect him to take a “natural lead” once the symbols are allocated, and the current mess settled.