UP polls: SP chief Akhilesh Yadav loses a hard-fought battle

He drew mammoth crowds in his rallies reflecting his popularity but failed to get the crowd converted into votes.

Published: 10th March 2022 08:36 PM  |   Last Updated: 10th March 2022 08:36 PM   |  A+A-

SP leader Akhilesh Yadav during a rally in Banda, UP. | file

Express News Service

LUCKNOW: Traversing through different phases of age and earning distinctions of being the youngest parliamentarian at 27 in 2000 and UP’s youngest chief minister at 38 in 2012, Akhilesh Yadav,  Samajwadi Party chief, seems to have finally come of age despite a series of electoral defeats since 2014.

At 47, Akhilesh, who led his party to one of the most crucial do-or-die electoral battles of his life, has certainly come out of the shadow of his father and SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and has established himself as the undisputed leader of the socialist movement in UP and his party as the main opposition with BSP and Congress standing decimated in UP’s political landscape.

The results of 2022 might not have led Akhilesh Yadav to the throne of UP but he fought hard to accomplish the mission which always was considered to be a herculean task. The SP chief exhibited unmatched political maturity to beat the mighty BJP in its own game by cobbling up strategic alliances with smaller caste-based parties.

As SP chief, Akhilesh left no stone unturned to wash off tag of being a ‘one family party’ and denied tickets to his family members. He tried to discipline his partymen to do away with the baggage of hooliganism which his party is still carrying and it was well reflected during the polls. He drew mammoth crowd in his rallies reflecting his popularity but failed to get the crowd converted into votes.

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Akhilesh tried to hard sell the changed approach of the Samajwadi Party by projecting it as ‘Nai hawa hai, nai SaPa hai – Badon ka hath, yuva ka saath.’ He reached out to the party veterans personally projecting inclusiveness in the party.

Akhilesh even mended the discordant notes in the family by shaking hands with uncle Shivpal Yadav in December 2021 and making him contest the polls on the SP ticket.

After tasting the crushing defeat in 2017 followed by 2019 Lok Sabha elections when his Mahagathbandhan with Mayawati failed, Akhilesh went back to drawing board and drafted the roadmap for the battle of 2022. He replicated the BJP caste calculus and struck strategic tie-ups with smaller caste-based alliances including Om Prakash Rajbhar’s SBSP, Mahan Dal led by Keshav Dev Maurya, Janwadi Party (Socialist) led by Sanjay Singh Chauhan, Shivpal Yadav’s Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia), Apna Dal-Kamerawadi led by Union Minister Anupriya Patel’s mother Krishna Patel rather than going with the mains stream parties like Congress and BSP anymore.

To cash in on the farmers' unrest and strike a Jat-Muslim synergy in western UP, Akhilesh joined hands with Jayant Chaudhury-led Rashtriya Lok Dal which was also looking for the revival after getting decimated in 2014, 2017 and 2019. Akhilesh even inducted big OBC faces like Swami Prasad Maurya, Dara Singh Chauhan and Dharam Singh Saini, who left the BJP in mid-January to go beyond the perception of being a party of Muslim and Yadavs (M-Y) in 2022 assembly polls.

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However, the strategy to induct a host of big leaders from the BJP ahead of the polls also flopped. Swami Prasad Maurya himself lost from Fazilnagar and Dharam Singh Saini from Nakur. Neither did the alliances bring dividends to the SP in the form of non-Yadav OBC votes.  Even the farmers’ protest did not hit the ruling party’s prospects as much as expected.

If BJP pressed into service all its bigwigs in the run-up to the polls – from Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah to BJP chief JP Nadda, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and others, the SP had only Akhilesh to pull off the party campaign at each front. He addressed 131 rallies.

The 2022 loss marks Akhilesh’s fourth back-to-back defeat from 2014 onwards. He had won his first election in 2000, a bypoll for the Kannauj Lok Sabha seat. In 2009, he was appointed state president, replacing uncle Shivpal.

In what will be the saving grace for Akhilesh, fighting his first Assembly election, he won by more than 60,000 votes from Karhal seat in Mainpuri – considered an SP bastion with a formidable number of Muslims and Yadavs – getting almost double the votes of his nearest BJP rival, SPS Baghel.


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