Lucknow/New Delhi: Away from the spotlight, the Samajwadi Party has begun its 2022 assembly election campaign with training camps for its volunteers across Uttar Pradesh, looking to counter the Bharatiya Janata Party’s booth-level strategy of reaching the most number of voters.
The SP has planned to conduct these three-day camps in four phases to cover the 403 assembly constituencies in the state. So far, the party has held nine such camps, covering around 100 Vidhan Sabha seats in the first phase, according to sources in the party.
At each of these camps, around 3,000 party volunteers — nearly 100-200 from each constituency — are receiving training from senior party leaders including SP supremo Akhilesh Yadav and his ‘mysterious’ associate Rai sahab, said the sources.
The volunteers are being taught about the BJP’s strategy of using religion to enter people’s homes, the criticism against the Narendra Modi government, and the history of socialism, among other issues, the sources added.
The camps are being held in utmost secrecy from the media, with tight security at the main gate of the training centres and a strict ban on photography and videography.
Speaking to ThePrint about the camps, SP spokesperson and MLC Sunil Singh Yadav said, “We train them on social media management, booth management, different social issues for different constituencies, how to counter BJP’s policies etc. This training is also aimed at strengthening the party’s cadre base.”
Since December 2020, the camps have so far been held in Bithoor (Kanpur), Chitrakoot, Kanpur Rural, Kannauj, Shravasti, Bareilly, Mirzapur, Jhansi and Moradabad, said the sources.
‘Rai Sahab’ for guidance
According to sources, the Samajwadi Party has created a guidance panel for these training camps.
The panel includes Akhilesh Yadav, SP vice-president and Rajya Sabha MP Kiranmay Nanda, state president Naresh Uttam Patel, former minister Indrajeet Saroj, senior leader Jai Shankar Pandey and Ravi Verma.
Rai Sahab, little is known of whom, is also a key member of this panel. He was in the news before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections for working as a consultant to Akhilesh. He is the most prominent lecturer at these camps.
But party leaders have no idea who he is or the reason behind his rise in the party. A senior party leader said, “Only boss (Akhilesh Yadav) knows about his profile and role. He is a 70-year-old man who knows deeply about socialism and boss takes his advice several times. He is a retired government officer… that is what we know.”
Saroj, a former Bahujan Samaj Party leader, lectures on how weaker sections should unite to counter BJP. Pandey teaches about the SP’s ideology and Ram Manohar Lohia’s contribution to politics.
Akhilesh Yadav has taken up the mantle of boosting the morale of the workers.
A second party leader said, “Akhilesh ji is meeting each and every worker personally in these camps. He is also staying in the same town during the training camps. Although phones are not allowed inside, after training sessions, workers also get to click photos with Akhilesh ji.”
Lectures on FDI and BJP’s politics
According to an SP worker who attended the training camp in Bareilly, “It was a three-day session divided into a series of lectures. It is mainly guided by Rai sahab.”
Speaking about these lectures, the worker said, “He gives a lecture series on the topics — “FDI Ka kadwa sachh (impact of foreign direct investment on small businesses)”, “Gujratiyon ka khel (the game of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and businessmen Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani).”
The worker said Rai’s third lecture topic is about how the BJP uses religion. “The ‘Dharmik Blackmail (how BJP uses religion as a tool for its politics)’ lecture was very relevant because in this lecture they told us about how the BJP-RSS use saints for their promotion indirectly,” he said.
“They go to mohallas and colonies for their events and promote RSS ideology. We have to understand how BJP ‘enters everyone’s house indirectly through the name of religion’. RSS aims to make Hindu Rashtra by 2025 so they are working on this mission. We have to understand their agenda and develop our narrative to counter,” he added.
A key leader of SP’s Jhansi unit said, “Rai sahab emphasises on a Forbes magazine article criticising the policies of the Modi government. According to him, Forbes is a popular international magazine telling the truth of the Indian government which our media doesn’t dare to write about.”
Another SP worker, who attended the party’s training camp in Mirzapur, said lectures are also being held on “proper use of social media and how to create narrative”.
“In this lecture, they told us how PM Modi’s beard grows and how he is trying to look like Rabindranath Tagore (ahead of Bengal elections). This is a way BJP creates narrative and social media and media helped him create it,” said the second worker.
“All senior leaders also said we are weak on social media, we have to create our IT cell on district level. We don’t have a large fund but we all have phones. We have to share our leaders’ posts and retweet them continuously. Also we have to counter if BJP or BJP-supporting media is creating any narrative against our party,” he added.
“We were told about the loopholes in (CM) Yogi’s schemes and the benefits of Akhilesh’s schemes. Each volunteer is given a task to further identify 10 workers who could make a team and visit each and every village in the Vidhan Sabha,” he added.
On the party’s aversion to talking about these camps in the media, a third senior leader said, “The reason behind keeping cameras away is that we don’t want these things to get leaked to BJP. Now after these camps we will have trained workers in every booth, they will counter BJP’s narrative. It’s the best way to give BJP a taste of its own medicine.”