Explained: Bicycle, the SP election symbol – and how Mulayam and Akhilesh identified with it

Samajwadi Party election symbol

Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav founded the SP on October 4, 1992, and the party was assigned the bicycle as a symbol for the UP Assembly election in 1993.

The SP contested 256 seats and won 109. Mulayam became chief minister for the second time.

Mulayam had served as chief minister earlier from 1989 to 1991, but then he was part of the Janata Dal, whose electoral symbol was the wheel.

Moulayam had previously contested elections on symbols of other parties. He won his first election to the Assembly in 1967 as the candidate of the Socialist Party of Samyukta, which had the “bargad” or banyan tree as its election symbol.

Mulayam was then elected MLA for another seven terms until 1996. Before founding the SP in 1992, Mulayam also challenged symbols such as ‘bailon ki jodi’ (pair of oxen) and ‘Kandhe par hal dhare kisan’ (farmer with plow). The latter was the symbol of the Janata party, and Mulayam was elected as Jaswant Nagar’s candidate in 1991.

Symbolism of the bicycle

“When it came to selecting an election symbol for the 1993 Assembly polls, Netaji (Mulayam) and other top leaders chose the bicycle (from the choices available) as their symbol,” Naresh Uttam said. Patel, chairman of the Samajwadi party UP.

Indeed, Patel said, “At that time, the bicycle was the vehicle of the farmers, the poor, the workers and the middle class, and riding a bicycle was cheaper and good for your health as well.”

Since then, the SP has contested every election over the bicycle symbol, Patel said.

While building and developing his party, Mulayam and his younger brother Shivpal Singh Yadav frequently cycled. Mulayam continued to cycle while canvassing even after becoming chief minister.

Shivpal formed a different party, the Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (PSP-Lohia), after disputes with Akhilesh, but he is contesting the current assembly election of Jaswant Nagar over the symbol of the SP bicycle.

Patel recalled that under the previous government of Akhilesh Yadav, cycle lanes were built in towns across the state and bicycles were distributed to female students and workers.

Regarding the Prime Minister’s remark on the SP election symbol, Patel said: “The Prime Minister is jumlebaazi with such remarks. His government does not care about inflation, unemployment and farmers. The PM works for the industrial wealthy, while the SP bike is associated with the poor and farmers.

SP founding member and Uttarakhand state chairman Satyanarayan Sachan said that even after becoming an MP for three terms, Mulayam rode his bike until 1977. “Later, another party leader collected some money and bought him a car,” Sachan said.

He added that the bicycle symbol reflects the party’s dedication and commitment to the poor, Dalits, farmers and working classes. “Its two wheels represent the way society and socialists keep moving forward, while its handle serves for balance,” Sachan said.

He said that even outside the UP, the SP contests the Assembly elections over the bicycle symbol.

Prior to the 2012 elections, in which the PS won an outright majority, Akhilesh Yadav deployed bicycle yatras across the state to mobilize workers and voters. To this day, he still gives interviews while riding a bike, although his campaigns in 2017 and 2022 were conducted on modified tanks. However, other PS leaders took out bicycle yatras in their districts ahead of these elections.

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James V. Hayes