Is Mulayam gearing up to 'divorce' UPA?
As his cousin and party general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav announced the list in the state capital, whispers of an impending "parting of ways" with the Congress were heard from Lucknow to New Delhi.
While Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Manish Tewari allayed speculations of snap polls, Ram Gopal Yadav said in Lucknow that his party was prepared for the Lok Sabha elections "any time they are held".
What also set the cat among the pigeons is Ram Gopal's statement that he did not rule out fielding candidates against Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi, both MPs from Uttar Pradesh.
While Mulayam Singh had earlier announced that his party would not pit candidates in Amethi and Rae Bareli, his cousin and senior party strategist Ram Gopal Yadav said he was not saying no to it right now.
Rahul Gandhi is the Lok Sabha member from Amethi while Sonia Gandhi is elected to the house from Rae Bareli.
"We are yet to release the list of remaining 25 seats. As of now I cannot rule out anything," Ram Gopal Yadav said.
The simmering disconnect between the SP and the Congress was evident when asked to comment on Rahul Gandhi being given charge of the Congress's campaign for 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Ram Gopal Yadav said: "See the history of Rahul Gandhi and you will get to know what he is capable of."
This is in stark contrast of Ram Gopal Yadav's proactive attitude in the run-up to the presidential election where he made Mulayam Singh support UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee.
An SP leader, refusing to be named, said that the Congress and the SP were together due to "political compulsions". "We cannot see eye to eye because our thought process, political ideology, everything is diametrically opposite," he said, while admitting that all was not well between the two parties.
The gloves, an insider opined, were off because the Planning Commission refused to pay to Uttar Pradesh the Rs.800 crore that was earlier agreed for the 2013 Maha Kumbh preparations. A section of the party, which was keen to maintain cordial relations with the central government for a "financial cushion" to the Akhilesh Yadav government, now feels cheated and is ready to view the "topsy turvy" relationship afresh.
Some SP leaders also have emphasised to Mulayam Singh that tagging along the graft-tainted UPA could prove counter productive at the hustings. Another reason for moving away from the UPA is the Congress's continued engagement with arch rival and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati, whom Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hosted for lunch recently.
With 21 MPs, Mayawati continues to wield considerable political clout in New Delhi.
Most admit that fast-tracking preparations for the general elections could be Mulayam Singh's way of signalling to the Congress that it need not take for granted the support of the SP's 22 MPs, but they do not apprehend any immediate political divorce.