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Will Akhilesh'S Magic Work Again? - Rajendra Kumar - The Sunday Indian
 
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SAMAJWADI PARTY

Will Akhilesh'S Magic Work Again?

 

despite the obvious anti-incumbency, Samajwadi Party looks well ahead of others as far as electoral preparations are concerned. Rajendra Kumar reports from Uttar Pradesh.
RAJENDRA KUMAR | Issue Dated: May 5, 2016, New Delhi
Tags : Samajwadi Party | Akhilesh | Shivpal Singh Yadav | Mulayam Singh | Rubber Stamp |
 

While Uttar Pradesh will go for polls in 2017, there is hardly any district in the state that has not started to see the hustle and bustle of electioneering. The main political players have already started with promises, programs and projects. But Samajwadi Party has already taken a head-start by declaring as many as 143 candidates on the seats that it had lost in the previous assembly elections. On the other hand, smaller parties such as Rashtriya Lok Dal are trying to cobble up an alliance with the help of other parties.

As of now, it appears to be a quadrangular contest in Uttar Pradesh. Samajwadi Party is the ruling dispensation. But even when the party was out of the power, it was a force to reckon with. The same can be said about Bahujan Samaj Party as well. It would be foolish to underestimate the party even if it was out of the favour in the previous election. BJP, on the other hand, has been an also-ran party in the last few years. However, buoyed by its performance in the general elections, and the presence of Narendra Modi, the party is all set to put in a tough fight. The fourth is the grand-alliance between Congress, RLD and old fragments of the erstwhile Janata Dal.

However, this grand-alliance will have to face a different ground reality in UP than it did in Bihar. While in Bihar, two big political parties were core components of the alliance, the two biggest parties in UP, namely SP and BSP, are not expected to join this camp. This is more of a cobbled-up alliance of smaller parties, which never made to the big league.

Talking to TSI, Ashutosh Mishra, head of the department of political science at Lucknow University, says, “The next election will be a make or break election for at least three parties, namely SP, BSP and BJP. If they lose this election, it will be a long haul for them to bounce back in the state in the near future.”

In fact, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh actually conceded this in a public meeting recently, mentioning that if the party cannot retain power in the upcoming elections, it will be difficult for it to repeat the feat in the foreseeable future. More or less, the same fear looms large over BJP too. If even the Modi-wave fails to return the BJP to power, what else can help is anybody's guess. BSP also sees this as an opportunity to cash in on the anti-incumbency against the government. It is not for nothing that BSP supremo Mayawati has also already started campaigning. Her public rally on Dr. Ambedkar’s birthday was an indication to her opponents that she is all prepared to jump into the electoral battle.

We Will Win 300 Seats In The Next Election...

Shivpal Singh Yadav, Senior Samajwadi Party leader and Cabinet Minister

What is your assessment for the upcoming polls?

Samajwadi Party will form the government once again. We’ll form the government with absolute majority. In fact, we will win over 300 seats this time.

But what’s the basis of this confidence? This sounds too farfetched for a party facing anti-Incumbency...

The all-round development initiated by the Akhilesh government is the basis of our confidence. From providing free education to free medicines, the Akhilesh government has done everything for the poor. Thousands of kilometers of roads and hundreds of bridges were constructed. The Metro is about to start in Lucknow, and the Gomati riverfront has been beautified. Plan’s afoot to clean the river as well. Students have been given laptops and the unemployed have been given allowances. All the developmental work is being undertaken across the state without any favour or bias. I am sure that voters will give us another chance.

Mayawati has labelled the Akhilesh government as an anti-Dalit government. What’s your take on this?

Mayawati’s lies have been laid bare. Mayawati does not give two hoots about the poor and downtrodden of the state including Dalits. She visits Uttar Pradesh as a tourist and goes back. After being kicked out of power, has she shared the grief of any poor or Dalit? Can she answer this? If anything, she has destroyed Babasaheb’s mission and the entire Dalit movement for her own sake.

But the government is being criticised by everyone, including Mayawati, on the issue of bad law and order...

Alleging a breakdown of law and order has turned into a fashion. The truth is, the situation has improved since the days of the last BSP government. Even the poorest of the poor can now file a report in police stations now. Was this possible under Mayawati’s reign?

Who will be your chief opponent in the next election?

To find out who will be the chief opponent is the job of the media. We’ll go to the people with the work we have done, and will ask their votes to keep communal forces at bay.

BJP appears to be a strong force this time around.

Don’t fall for this false narrative. All sorts of fake surveys are being done to prop other parties. There’s still time for the elections. We’ll discuss about this later.

Ajit Singh and Nitish Kumar are forming an alliance against you. Are you concerned?

They can form whatever alliance they can, we are not afraid. Only elections will tell who will be favoured by the voters of Uttar Pradesh.



Naturally, Mulayam Singh has a sharp eye on these developments and SP is cooking up some ideas of its own. Mulayam Singh, whose wish to play a role in national politics was dashed in the last general elections, is desperately trying to spring a comeback.

Akhilesh, on the other hand, wants to return as the Chief Minister in order to strengthen his claim forever.

According to party insiders, Mulayam Singh has already finalised the names of most of the candidates who will fight the election. However, only those 142 names have been released who are contesting on the seats that the arty lost in the previous election. If this was not enough, Mulayam also took the decision to field his younger daughter-in-law in the next elections as well as to declare his brother Shivpal Singh Yadav as the party chief for UP. He is still of the belief that only members of Yadav family can energise the cadres sufficiently. According to party spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary, the party has also finalised the final preparations for the electoral campaign. Posters, banners, songs and slogans have also been finalised well in advance. Even the booth level workers and the responsibilities given to them have been finalised. Chaudhary further adds that Mulayam is of the belief that elections are won by grassroots workers and they can only be energised if they feel themselves connected to the top leadership and have an access to them. He has therefore directed everyone from the CM to the District President to listen to the grievances and suggestions of the grassroots workers.

Mulayam Singh also seems to have targeted Congress for its soft-peddling of Mayawati and BSP and has challenged the party to open a front against her as it did against SP in the previous polls. Mulayam Singh has made his mind to sideline the Congress once and for all in the state. This, according to him, will also weaken the party at the Centre. Mulayam Singh ergo is not expected to be soft on the Congress in his poll campaign and will target BJP, BSP and Congress with equal ferocity.

Naturally, under the circumstances, Mulayam Singh will once again lead the party’s electoral campaign in the state. However, both Akhilesh and Shivpal will have pivotal roles. The Kranti Rath of the past will be a passé this time as helicopters will be the preferred mode of transportation for Akhilesh. It is expected that Akhilesh will target youngsters and promise them more developmental projects if he returns to power. BSP on the other hand will make corruption its main plank against the ruling party. Akhilesh will be very cautious in his speeches. It is expected that issues like Mandir, Masjid and identity politics will be missing from his speeches this time too. He is expected to focus primarily on the developmental work undertaken during his tenure. The party is already preparing swanky hoardings and lists of all the work undertaken during his tenure. A vision document is also in the offing. This will detail what all the party plans to do if it regains power. Samajwadi Party, which was almost missing from social media in the past, has decided to take a plunge this time in order to target young voters. A team will work tirelessly not only on promoting the work done by the government but also on countering allegations of the opposition.

A campaign named ‘I Support Akhilesh’ is already finding traction among the voters as it aspires to promote him as a brand. The focus however will be on the TV medium. ‘Akhilesh Phir Se’ (Akhilesh once again) will be the main rhetoric of the party for the polls.

However, Akhilesh knows quite well that his biggest challenge will be to counter anti-incumbency. How will he counter this is anybody’s guess. Chaudhary maintains that most of the promises made in 2012 have been realised and whatever little is left will be realised in the months leading to the polls.

It is finally the perception that works at the end, not the actual promises realised. It is true that Akhilesh is seen as a soft-spoken CM who is not arrogant. His incorruptible personal image is also a plus point. However, the initial three years of his rule were spent trying to wriggle out of the image of a ‘Rubber Stamp’ Chief Minister. Different power centres sprung up since the very early days of the government and his time and energy were spent in treading along these minefields. The communal strife in Muzaffarnagar and the polarization that followed in western UP will also be a big challenge for the father-son duo.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017