Saturday, March 25, 2023
HomeOpinionThere's a Rahul Gandhi in the Samajwadi Party. It's Akhilesh Yadav

There’s a Rahul Gandhi in the Samajwadi Party. It’s Akhilesh Yadav

Akhilesh Yadav's last seven years have been a steadily declining graph – in terms of political weight, astuteness as well as electoral performance.

Text Size:

The Samajwadi Party seems to be on the way to getting its very own Rahul Gandhi. His name is Akhilesh Yadav. Ever since the abysmal performance of his party in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the once-dynamic chief minister of Uttar Pradesh Akhilesh Yadav has disappeared into oblivion.

On Saturday, Akhilesh Yadav commented on the state of the Uttar Pradesh police under the Yogi Adityanath government following the Jhansi encounter, claiming the situation was such that “anyone could die anywhere in UP”. Such has been the recent mildness of his existence that this largely went unnoticed and failed to grab headlines that a sharp criticism from a former CM ideally would.

The problems with Akhilesh Yadav, however, go beyond his silence (barring a few instances when he has sporadically questioned the Adityanath government) and current cluelessness. Once hailed as the gen-next young turk of Uttar Pradesh, his political weight, astuteness and electoral performance have steadily declined in the last seven years. Among opposition leaders, the two who stand out for their complete inability to show any sense of direction or establish even a semblance of presence in the Narendra Modi era, despite being relatively ‘young’, are – Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav. If he continues at this rate, Yadav will soon start resembling the former, who is now just synonym for failure in Indian politics.

Akhilesh Yadav started off with much promise. At 38, he became the chief minister of India’s most politically crucial state – Uttar Pradesh – the youngest ever to hold that post. The breathless media coverage of his 2012 campaign showed the ‘new bicycle chief’ campaigning with a tablet, being called a ‘moderniser’ and being credited for an image makeover of the Luddite party.

Also read: Akhilesh Yadav, Uttar Pradesh’s lonely prince, is paying for his audacity

A selling point

Look at all other opposition leaders today, and a pattern becomes clear. Most of them have a unique selling point, with which they hope to stay afloat.

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee may be deflated after BJP’s excellent show in her home-turf in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, but no one can take away from the fact that she is one-of-a-kind in politics and will always be remembered for her maverick, street-style politics that took down a 34-year Left front government.

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal may have mellowed down from his days as a Modi-basher, but he did manage to make Modi seem insignificant in the 2015 Delhi assembly polls. He is making the BJP worry about the elections due next year and has cleverly moulded himself into a new political leader who understands the importance of promoting positive politics over merely cursing Modi.

Mayawati, meanwhile, may have remained off the radar, but will go down in history for her contribution to Dalit politics and social awakening, as well as a term as chief minister, remembered for a controlled law and order situation in a very difficult state.

Other opposition leaders like Andhra Pradesh’s Jagan Mohan Reddy have also managed reasonably well for themselves in this all-powerful Modi era, making Akhilesh Yadav stick out like a sore thumb. Besides, of course, his good friend (or once-good friend) Rahul Gandhi.

What does Akhilesh have to his credit? He is a leader who built no legacy for himself, left no stamp on the style of governance. To make it worse, he seems to be showing no signs of coming out of this post-defeat shell.

Also read: Naukri is the new mehngai but the opposition just doesn’t get it

The decline

Given Uttar Pradesh’s murky political past and the whole concept of ‘goondaraj’, Akhilesh was like a breath of fresh air – but more importantly, he was very unlike his father and former CM Mulayam Singh Yadav and his ever-dominating army of uncles.

What marked Akhilesh Yadav’s five-year term was not a burst of youthful energy in governance, but a massively deteriorating law and order situation, with an overbearing father and his brothers constantly undermining his decisions.

After a poor governance record, the 2017 assembly elections in the state were dominated by a very public and ugly spat between father and son in the Samajwadi Party. Akhilesh Yadav emerged as a politician in his own right, forcing his father to fall in line. That glory, however, was short-lived. A much-hyped, “UP ke ladke” (the boys of UP) alliance between the SP and the Congress materialised, with Akhilesh and Rahul in the front. The results – disastrous, a drubbing for the alliance and a sweep for the BJP.

From a ruling party, the SP it was reduced to a near-nothing opposition, with a mere 54 of the 403 seats.

The bypolls in the state in 2018 gave the opposition, including Akhilesh Yadav, a reason to smile, but that seemed more like a fluke.

The real disaster came ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, where an obviously rattled Akhilesh and Bahujan Samaj Party head Mayawati decided to bury decades-old bitterness and use the bua-bhateeja (aunt and nephew) cocktail to defang the BJP. This time, the other ‘UP ka ladka’ Rahul Gandhi was kept out, but the results were still as dismal.

Akhilesh Yadav’s party managed a mere five seats. By then, ample questions were being raised about this once-promising political star’s political sense and electoral decisions.

Also read: Akhilesh Yadav govt launched helpline for UP journalists. But dialling it won’t help

What remains

Akhilesh Yadav has not presented any fresh vision for the Indian voter, any course-correction exercise or promise of reinvention, despite being merely 46 – ‘young’ by most standards in Indian politics.

Akhilesh Yadav seems to carry forward the misogyny and patriarchy his party has been known for. Consider the July instance when senior SP leader and serial offender Azam Khan’s sexist statement in Lok Sabha drew smiles and even a defence from Akhilesh.

The difference between Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav is that the latter has always appeared to be far more grounded, less flighty and not a serial bumbler. He has also been more affable and despite the whole ‘dynasty’ tag, far from arrogant. There is also little doubt he is reasonably hard-working and does not set off on foreign vacations at inopportune times. However, if he does continue down this path of directionless and poor political choices, Akhilesh Yadav could soon find himself on the same footing as the other ‘UP ka ladka’.

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Support Our Journalism

India needs fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism, packed with on-ground reporting. ThePrint – with exceptional reporters, columnists and editors – is doing just that.

Sustaining this needs support from wonderful readers like you.

Whether you live in India or overseas, you can take a paid subscription by clicking here.

Support Our Journalism


  1. Akhilesh and Rahul are good straightforward gentlemen who are not even street smart like kejriwal. They look like clowns today only because of the malicious orchestrated political propaganda.

  2. This is a perfect case of desk reporting. Problem with media in Modi era is that they want the opposition parties only to go all out against the ruling regime but conveniently compromise with their responsibilities to ask questions to the government. Questioning the opposition and sparing the ruling regime is the new normal in times when likes of Ruhi Tewari’s write a report and make sweeping statements. Time to move out of their cosy Delhi offices and hit the roads in Uttar Pradesh? May be to start with Jhansi and write about the family of the young man killed by the police, where no other opposition leader but Akhilesh Yadav went. Yes, Akhilesh Yadav. You read it right. So, please do some fact checks before writing. Please let objectivity stay in journalism.

  3. Its nt bias but a brutal reality.. other than tamil nadu n wb.. there seems to be no opposition at all. AAP can’t call itself a opposition. I think its of the most matured party as of now. They literally r one who r nt fighting election on false hope but onto what they did for 5 years. No one expected AK could be this good. As far as Delhi is concerned. I think he got the nerves right of middle class

  4. Much like Shri Arvind Kejriwal, Shri Akhilesh Yadav was also built up by the media. When he became the Chief Minister of UP, media was full of fawning articles written on him. All that turned out to be nothing but hot air. All this makes you wonder, do journalists genuinely have the acumen required to write on political issues and politicians?

  5. my opinion howdy Modi is a cheap of America, you journalist are too, that’s why kerjariwal c m of Delhi has made all proud because he is literate,not like you people being literate still are being dictated by illiterate politician shame on you all

  6. Modi has changed the political land space of India. Today dynasts without talent have no place in Indian politics. Voters look for leaders they can trust and depend upon their leadership talent. If a political leader wants to become popular among masses, he/she should learn from Modi’s life.

    • You said it. But I disagree also. Akilesh may be that inept bumbling not talented person. Rahulji is not. This shows author s complete bias and thought process.

Comments are closed.