Even as Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh and his estranged colleague Amar Singh struck conciliatory tones, the hardening of stand by the pro- and anti-Amar Singh groups threatens to pose fresh problems for Mr. Mulayam Singh.

The SP chief -- who on Monday inaugurated the Saifai Mahotsav festival in his native village in Etawah district -- had a telephonic conversation with the party general secretary and is said to have invited Mr. Amar Singh to the festival.

Mr. Singh has reportedly accepted the invitation and will be in Saifai on January 21 as the chief guest of the music conference. The annual festival, held in the memory of Mr. Mulayam Singh’s nephew Ranbir, will go on till January 24.

The Mulayam-Amar “peace” talks, however, have not deterred the party loyalists who have rallied behind the SP chief and are now baying for Mr. Amar Singh’s blood. While the majority of SP MLAs and office-bearers have preferred to keep mum, the lead has been taken by a group of Muslim MLAs from western Uttar Pradesh. Led by Mehboob Ali, the MLA from Amroha in Moradabad district, the legislators on Monday reportedly demanded the expulsion of Mr. Amar Singh from the party.

Similar sentiments were echoed by Iqbal Mehmood, the MLA from Sambhal in Moradabad, on Sunday. Party sources in Lucknow said the MLAs had taken the cue from national general secretary Ram Gopal, who is said to have advised Mr. Mulayam Singh to accept Mr. Amar Singh’s resignation. They were also backed by a dominant group of SP MLAs and senior party leaders from eastern U.P.

The hardening of stand comes after Sandeep Agrawal, the SP MLA from Moradabad, on Sunday claimed that about 25 MLAs and eight MPs were ready to quit as an expression of support for Mr. Amar Singh. Mr. Agrawal was made the election-in-charge in Rampur by the national general secretary in the May 2009 Lok Sabha elections. This was followed by Rampur MP Jaya Prada’s statement that she would resign from the Lok Sabha if Mr. Amar Singh quit the SP.

Mr. Agrawal and Ms. Jaya Prada have expressed disgust at Mr. Ram Gopals statement and said that any insult to Mr. Amar Singh would not be tolerated.

Incidentally, the other national general secretary and film actor, Sanjay Dutt, also echoed a similar line when he resigned from his post on Saturday. Mr. Dutt was brought into the SP by Mr. Amar Singh, who was also instrumental in the actor being fielded from Lucknow in last year’s Lok Sabha polls till he was debarred from contesting by the Supreme Court. Social activist Nafisa Ali, who replaced Mr. Dutt as the SP candidate from Lucknow, was also Mr. Amar Singh’s choice, which was readily accepted by Mr. Mulayam Singh.

While some MLAs have reportedly articulated their opposition to Mr. Amar Singh’s continuing in the party, the latter’s loyalists, who are either in the party or had extended support to the SP, were weighing their options. These include independent MLA from Kunda and former minister Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiyya, and the MLA from Tiloi in Rae Bareli district, Mayankeshwar Sharan Singh.

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