LUCKNOW: A win would have certainly put Akhilesh on the political pedestal of Uttar Pradesh as an undisputed Samajwadi Party leader even though he had to carve a path for himself after revolting against his father and SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and feuding with his uncle Shivpal Yadav. The loss in Uttar Pradesh has, however, turned the tide against him, unleashing a volley of challenges as dissenting voices began echoing.
Demands for Mulayam to take back the party reins have started gaining ground.
Speaking to mediapersons after the poll rout on Saturday, the outgoing chief minister, while accepting defeat, blamed the ‘gullibility’ of the Uttar Pradesh voter. “UP ke voter ko behka ke bhi vote liya jaa sakta hai,” he said in a clear hint at BJP’s poll narrative throughout their campaign.
Akhilesh also seconded Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati’s take that EVMs were tampered with. He said if a leader expressed suspicion about electronic voting machines being rigged, the government should get order a probe.
Evaluating the reasons for the SP-Congress alliance’s failure, the prolonged family feud between the erstwhile ruling Yadavs emerges as the prime factor that cast a shadow on the party’s prospects. People seem to have lost faith in the party that has been fraught with intra-family clashes, leading to Mulayam’s unceremonious removal as its president. The fight for the party symbol ‘cycle’ also sent out a negative picture to the Samajwadi Party’s loyal vote bank, even in Yadav land. People were found empathising with Mulayam and condemning Akhilesh over the way he upstaged his father. Worse, Mulayam’s absence from the party’s poll campaign also dented its image and in its chances.
Having antagonised his own father, young ‘brash’ Akhilesh had taken up with his contemporary Rahul Gandhi, as the UP voter saw it, and it did not go down well with them. “UP has rejected the tie-up of the ‘UP ke Ladke’ (UP’s boys),” says a political analyst. But Akhilesh seems to want to continue the ‘bromance’; speaking to the media after the results, the SP chief said that the alliance was good and would continue.
Good for whom? “The entire state, the SP vote bank religiously voted for the Congress candidates keeping with the alliance dharma but the same did not happen with Congress vote bank, especially the upper castes, which shifted mainly to the BJP,” says a senior SP functionary, disapproving of the tie-up, which he seems to see as a handicap. Another goes so far as to say, “The Congress ensured our defeat in many places.” He adds that Akhilesh should have gone by the advice of his father who opposed the alliance right in the beginning.
In the beginning of the campaign though the Samajwadi Party seemed to have successfully hijacked the development agenda from the BJP, with their ‘Kaam bolta hai’ slogan, the emergence of a tainted Gayatri Prajapati as a gang-rape accused, and the chief minister yet heading to Amethi to seek votes for his Cabinet colleague tarnished the party’s image and alienated voters.
Further, in a battle of ideologies where the Samajwadi party flashed its ‘secular’ badge to the Muslims, as an alternative to the saffron BJP, the ruling party didn’t get the support they expected from the state’s large minority in Western UP. The results indicate that in the west, the traditional Muslim vote bank of the SP has lost faith in the party. The alliance here shrunk to just 24 of 136 seats as against the 58 it won in 2012. The trend hints at a reverse polarisation of the community, which is a majority in these parts, in favour of the BJP which clinched 107 seats this time from the region.
The riots of Muzaffarnagar and Bulandshahr and the Dadri lynching over the past two years also, contrary to expectation, resulted in reverse polarisation in the region.
As for the non-Yadav OBCs in the state, they were annoyed at being ignored by the ruling Yadavs.
Anti-incumbency, ticket distribution and subsequent rebellion created a hostile atmosphere for Akhilesh this time around with a number of Mulayam loyalists sulking as they were denied tickets. The young chief minister was thus also pulled down by his ‘reckless’ ambition to change the old ways.