LUCKNOW: Apparently, alliances are not working for Samajwadi Party (SP) national president Akhilesh Yadav. After the rejection of SP-Congress alliance in 2017 UP Assembly polls, SP’s gathbandhan with BSP and RLD met the same fate in the recently concluded LS polls. Previous decimations led the SP chief harmonize with arch rival Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati to carve out a new caste template to
ensure saffron rout in Hindi heartland. Not only, his calculations have failed in 2019 but his leadership capabilities are also under scanner.
Considering the previous two electoral defeats of SP, with Akhilesh Yadav at the helm, a temporary setback, even political pundits named the realignment of political forces in UP as formidable challenge to saffron surge. They were convinced that the SP-BSP-RLD mahagathbandhan would lead the regional parties regain their lost ground comfortably. But the alliance, stitched up with Akhilesh taking the first step despite his father’s (Mulayam Singh Yadav) strong opposition, ended up winning just 15 of 80 seats against a prediction of 56.
BSP got breathers. It added 10 seats to its tally of zero of 2014 and also sustained its vote share at around 19 %. Akhilesh, on the other, emerged loser who could neither protect his family bastions except Azamgarh and Mainpuri, nor increase his party’s previous tally. Moreover, SP vote share dwindled by four
percentage points to 17.56% from 22.35% in 2014.
2019 results reflect how Akhilesh’s revival efforts failed to fetch desired results and consolidating regression of his party with each passing election. He became an MP in late 20s and the CM at 38. But, the tutelage of his father and uncles who formed proverbial ‘four and a half’ CMs for a better part of his tenure between 2012 and 2017 was there to protect and guide him.
While Akhilesh contested 2014 Lok Sabha polls under the secured wings of elders, the 2017 elections were his first attempt to break away from their shadow. In 2019, besides Mulayam’s open opposition to his gathbandhan step, estranged uncle Shivpal too hurt SP prospects.
The first test of Akhilesh’s leadership skill was 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Mulayam Singh was the national party chief, but Yadav was the de facto leader of the SP’s 2014 campaign. It was the first major jolt for SP when it came down to five from its 2009 tally of 23 LS seats. The saffron juggernaut with 71 of 80 seats crushed the regional satraps. BSP and RLD failed to open account.
“Can’t say what went wrong where. Why did people reject us. With a good leader like Akhilesh ji at helm, things went awry for us yet again,” an SP leader said on condition of anonymity. “We are already into soul searching mode. We are reviewing every aspect of our defeat,” says another SP leader. However, there were murmurs of dissent from some quarters of the party. “There are some elements of previous generation who have yet to accept Akhilesh as party leader. They are raising fingers at his leadership,” said a very senior SP leader.
The vote share of the SP fell to 22% in the assembly polls in 2017, from 29.15% in 2012. Similarly, the vote share of the party in 2014 LS polls came down to 22.35% from 23.26% in 2009. In 2019, the figure has slid to 17.96%. “He did not learn his lesson from 2014 and 2017 debacles. The show of 2019 puts him
as an immature politician who needs to change the set of his advisors,” says Prof AK Mishra, a political analyst.