Monday, 23 May, 2022
HomeOpinionHow Akhilesh Yadav could change the SP’s Yadav-party image

How Akhilesh Yadav could change the SP’s Yadav-party image

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The Samajwadi Party continues to be seen as a party of only Yadavs and Muslims, both communities that tend to alienate other voters.

Since the BJP’s loss in the Phulpur and Gorakhpur bypolls, many have come to believe it as a foregone conclusion that the BJP will do poorly in the state’s 80 Lok Sabha seats in 2019.

But that may not be the case. If the BJP can limit the BSP-SP combine to their core voter bases (Jatav, Yadav, Muslim), it may still have the upper hand in the caste arithmetic.

The BSP-SP coalition has to be able to cut into the non-Yadav OBC vote. The BJP in UP has established a near total monopoly over this large section of voters, around 30 per cent of the population.

With its history of the Dalit-Brahmin alliance in 2007, and having won substantial lower-OBC votes until 2014, the BSP is still somewhat acceptable to upper castes and lower-OBCs.

The SP, however, continues to be seen as a party of only Yadavs and Muslims, both communities that tend to alienate other voters – Muslims because of Hindutva, and Yadavs because of their aggression and assertion. No OBC caste group is as disliked by other caste groups as the Yadavs.

Chicken and egg

Caste politics is a chicken-and-egg situation. Voters complain that politicians have made elections all about caste. Politicians complain voters elect candidates on caste lines.

Caste is like corruption: Everyone does it and everyone decries it.

Voters will tell you that if they vote differently from how they are supposed to be voting, their vote is as good as wasted. If a Yadav in UP votes for the BSP, or a Lodh for the SP, or a Jatav for the BJP, will the winning MLA actually believe it?

“Will he get my work done?” is the question one hears often from voters when asked why they vote along caste lines.

Akhilesh Yadav’s populist measures and his focus on big infra as chief minister helped him not be seen as a Yadav, a big achievement over his father Mulayam Singh Yadav. By snatching power from his father, he furthered his image as a man who wants to change the rules of the game. By denying tickets to bahubali politicians with criminal records, he’s worked to change his party’s goonda image.

But the SP continues to be seen as a Yadav party. Since 2017, the SP has been trying to woo the non-Yadav OBCs in its ranks with limited success. (Giving tickets to non-Yadav OBCs in both Phulpur and Gorakhpur helped win those bypolls.)

But if he is to make a serious dent in the BJP’s consolidation over the non-Yadav OBC vote, he will have to change the perception that the SP in power brings ‘Yadav raj’.

Doing the obvious things, like taking up issues of lower-OBCs, give them greater representation within the party, and making sure the SP has new workers and leaders from these communities across the hierarchy, will help — but only so much.

If the BJP can change its image of a Brahmin-Baniya party, there’s no reason why the SP can’t change its image as a Yadav party — but it needs an image-changing exercise.

A campaign against caste

B.R. Ambedkar, Mahatma Gandhi, Periyar E.V. Ramasamy, Jyotiba Phule, Sant kabir, Guru Nanak, Raja Rammohan Roy, and Swami Dayanand Saraswati are only some of the people who struggled against the menace of caste. They couldn’t end the institution of caste, but became respected icons for millions of people.

Another such name was Ram Manohar Lohia, ideological figurehead of the SP. Lohia said, “Caste restricts opportunity. Restricted opportunity constricts ability. Constricted ability further restricts opportunity. Where caste prevails, opportunity and ability are restricted to ever-narrowing circles of the people.”

But who remembers him today as anything other than a socialist ideologue?

Akhilesh Yadav can change his party’s Yadav-first image by positioning himself as another Lohia, Gandhi or Kabir. He could start a social campaign to end casteism and caste discrimination in UP.

We have seen how powerful social messages can be if politicians adopt them. Prime Minister Narendra Modi asks people to clean up the streets, and the people love it. Arvind Kejriwal asked people to follow the odd-even car-rationing scheme, and car owners supported it. India didn’t get any cleaner and Delhi’s pollution levels didn’t come down, but both leaders were appreciated for the effort.

There could be no better place to start such a movement than Laharatara, the birthplace of Kabir in Varanasi. Akhilesh Yadav could go around conducting an anti-caste yatra in the state, asking people to shun casteism and organising inter-caste events just like the BSP’s bhaichara sammelans (fraternal gatherings). He could promote and encourage inter-caste marriage, his own marriage being an example. He could highlight caste discrimination by government and society alike, and visit victims of caste-based violence.

Defeating caste politics

A movement like this would have many benefits for the SP.

Firstly, it could help change the image of the SP as a Yadav party. The BJP has mastered caste politics but claims to be above it, thus having its cake and eating it too. The SP could aim for a similar image with an anti-caste movement.

Secondly, a social campaign would help the SP’s efforts to woo people other than Yadavs and Muslims to the party.

Thirdly, it could subtly work on the party’s own core base, Yadavs, telling them of the need to tone it down and stop alienating other castes.

Fourthly, it could help win brownie points against the Yogi Adityanath government by pointing to allegations of ‘Thakurwaad’.

Lastly, it could help strengthen the SP-BSP alliance, assuring Dalits that the SP intends to make its vote transfer to BSP candidates, and generally improve the problem of Yadavs oppressing Dalits when the SP is in power.

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  1. Caste has alienated should be shunned.Brahmnism fuels it and respective castes follow it to core.Its a non sense and has destroyed the Vedic religion for ulterior motives.A beautiful religion or a way of life the Hinduism has been fragmented in last 2000 years.Rather than politics it would save our religion and country.younger generations are doing it their own way.RSS and all Hindu shankracharyas need to condemn caste and Varna vyavstha otherwise we will see new minority religions-Lingayats Jains Sikhs,Bodhs and in some decades or centuries,may be Yadavs themselves declaring their Group as a separate minority religion.
    Just because of caste.Shun it,discard it.

  2. Your viewpoints to Akhilesh changing SP face is just like telling a dreaded monster to change its character under saint’s disguise.People so much suffered in 10 years continuous rule of SP that even uttering SP name before them brings chill down the spine. Worst governance, horrible execution as honest executive started getting penalised , rampant corruption and day light goondism are a few features of SP rule. Do not go by latest two bye-elections, the reality is otherwise. 2019 will be an eye opener for SP advisers too

  3. How desperate are these biased reporters in giving advice to their political masters in how best to achieve the desired electoral results

  4. Not sure if in the time that remains till the next general election, the charismatic, development oriented Akhileshbabu can transform himself into a social reformer. However, the efforts he made in UP, especially towards the close of his tenure, marked him out as very different from the traditional DNA of the SP. With a clear alliance with the BSP and a tent large enough to accomodate the Ajit Singh group and a more down to earth Congress, this would be a potent combination.

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