Thursday, 27 January, 2022
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Akhilesh Yadav’s SP isn’t giving up against Yogi Adityanath’s BJP. They have a 3-point plan

A lot will depend on the ‘corrective measures’ Akhilesh Yadav takes to galvanise the Samajwadi Party and win them back the voters they lost to BJP.

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Samajwadi Party, under the leadership of Akhilesh Yadav, has emerged as the principal contender for the Bharatiya Janata Party in Uttar Pradesh. The party has been working on three-pronged strategies to dethrone Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath from the political power of the state.

Search for reliable candidates

The first strategy of the Samajwadi Party (SP) is to search for candidates with high winnability factor and reliability. To determine this, the party has adopted three criteria — Popularity of the candidates in their assembly constituencies, caste profile of voters, and loyalty to the party. Akhilesh Yadav has taken this approach with an eye on the post-poll political developments in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) engineered the mass defection of Opposition MLAs and ushered in their own government. By reliability, the party does not only mean loyalty to the SP but also to Akhilesh Yadav. This test of loyalty has unsettled leaders such as Raghuraj Pratap Singh aka Raja Bhaiya of the Jansatta Dal (Loktantrik) who wants to form an alliance with SP but  has been unable to win the confidence of Akhilesh Yadav despite having long-term proximity with Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Senior officer bearers of the party said in August that they had hired services of two Hyderabad-based survey agencies to scout such candidates. To scrutinise the candidates, the party has already invited applications and their biographies. However, no such application was invited in case of incumbent MLAs, suggesting most of them would be renominated.

Also Read: The big move behind Akhilesh Yadav’s alliances with smaller players in Uttar Pradesh

Mobilisation of Most Backward Caste voters

The second most important strategy of the SP is to mobilise voters from Most Backward Castes (MBCs). MBC voters are said to be crucial in deciding the victory of any political party in Uttar Pradesh because they are non-aligned voters. ‘Upper castes’, Jatavs/Chamars, and Yadavs are core voters of BJP, Bahujan Samaj Party, and SP respectively. Earlier, MBC voters used to be strong supporters of the BSP, but since 2014, they have aligned with the BJP. This time, the SP has been making strenuous efforts for mobilising them.

To mobilise MBC voters, the SP has adopted three prime strategies. Earlier, the district president and the general secretary of the party unit used to be from Yadav and Muslim communities. If one post was occupied by a Yadav, the other post was to be given to a Muslim. I have been told that Akhilesh Yadav has changed this policy to accommodate MBCs. The next strategy, which the SP has adopted, is the launching of small ‘yatras’. Much before Narendra Modi started his election campaign in UP, SP leaders such as Sanjay Chauhan, Naresh Uttam Patel, Indrajit Saroj, Mithai Lal Bharati, Keshav Dev Maurya, among others, had organized yatras in different subregions of Uttar Pradesh. The final strategy is the formation of electoral alliances with small and marginal parties of the MBCs that have emerged in the last two decades. The alliance with Om Prakash Rajbhar’s Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party is an example of such an electoral strategy.

Reserved constituencies

The third strategy of the SP is to win the maximum number of reserved seats. The party has previously neglected reserved constituencies since the BSP had a strong hold on them. But with the weakening of the BSP, the BJP has become a strong contender. In fact, the BJP gets a huge advantage in terms of winning reserved constituencies, and in the last assembly election, the BJP and its allies had won 75 out of 85 reserved constituencies. To win such constituencies in large numbers, the SP has been ‘importing’ strong leaders from the BSP. Until now, the party has been able to induct many such leaders, prominent among them are Mithai Lal Bharti, Indrajit Saroj, Tribhuvan Dutt, Tilak Chandra Ahirwar, K.K. Gautam, Sarvesh Ambedkar, Mahesh Arya, Yogesh Verma, Ajay Pal Singh Jatav, Veer Singh Jatav, Feran Lal Ahirwar, Ramesh Gautam, Vidya Chaudhary, Anil Ahirwar, C.L. Pasi, etc. These leaders have been MLAs, MPs, ministers, and senior party functionaries in the BSP. The SP has planned to nominate these leaders in reserved constituencies. Earlier, Samajwadi Party used to nominate mostly non-Jatav/Chamar candidates in the reserved constituency, but now the BJP has adopted this strategy. So, the SP has been forced to nominate Jatav/Chamar candidates in reserved constituencies.  The BSP has been out of power for the last 10 years, so its leaders are also desperately looking for a switch, which would increase their winning probability.

Challenges to SP’s strategies

The SP is facing three major challenges in its mobilisation strategy. First, the organisation has never been cadre-based but a patronage (network) party. Mulayam Singh Yadav, along with his brother Shivapal Singh Yadav, used to have a strong network of local leaders that Akhilesh Yadav is still lacking. Second, unlike BJP, the SP does not have constituency-wise comprehensive data of caste and community profiles of voters, which poses serious limitations in prudent ticket distribution and formation of electoral strategy. Third, the spectre of some decisions of the previous Akhilesh Yadav government, particularly the demotion of SC/ST employees and ending of special schemes meant for their welfare. In order to target Jatav/Chamar voters of BSP, Akhilesh Yadav had demoted SC/ST employees and ended SC/ST schemes after assuming power in 2012 but the move also damaged non-Jatav/Chamar SC/ST voters who had voted for the SP due to their intra-caste rivalry. Akhilesh Yadav’s decision hurt them and they moved towards the BJP. The fact that this issue was vociferously raised even in the meeting of SC/ST intellectuals, which Yadav had called, seems to have caught his attention. He did not offer any explanation but promised to take ‘corrective measures’ — without clarifying further — if he comes back to power.

Armed with new strategies, Akhilesh Yadav has been on upfront in attacking Yogi Adityanath for harming MBC and Dalit communities, whereas the latter has also been constantly reminding the voters of about deeds Yadav’s regime. The success of both of them lies, ultimately, in convincing MBC and Dalit voters — who is least harmful of them.

Arvind Kumar (@arvind_kumar__), PhD at the Department of Politics and IRs, Royal Holloway, University of London. Views are personal.

Also Read: Three lessons for Modi-Shah in below-par performance in assembly polls


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