Social engineering — SP and Congress style

The New Indian Express takes a look at the changing chemistry between Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi from ’17 Assembly polls to ’24.
Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi during public rally for Lok Sabha polls, in Phulpur, Sunday, May 19, 2024.
Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi during public rally for Lok Sabha polls, in Phulpur, Sunday, May 19, 2024. Photo | PTI

RAE BARELI: At the roundabout in Dighiya village in Rae Bareli, Samajwadi Party leader YP Yadav is co-coordinating with party workers to welcome Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi, who is on her way to attend a rally in Amethi. The cadres are enthused and the synergy is palpable.

“The alliance between SP and Congress is formidable this time. The messaging from the top has reached the last man. We make sure that the cadres of both parties work cohesively. The camaraderie between Rahul Gandhi and our leader Akhilesh Yadav will do wonders for the alliance,” says Yadav, who contested the UP assembly elections in 2022.

The leaders of both parties concur that the 2017 alliance experiment did not yield desired results. “The alliance did not work in the 2017 election the way we expected. Now our common goal is to dislodge the BJP from power. It is the need of the hour,” says Uttar Pradesh Congress leader Dinesh Singh.

Though the alliance talks saw minor hiccups in the beginning, it had a smooth journey afterwards, says Singh. “There were some issues about seat-sharing in the beginning. It was sorted out amicably. Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav held many rallies jointly in the last five phases, which received an overwhelming response,” he says.

The Congress leader also points out the presence of SP flags and the representation of their workers in the meetings and rallies by Congress. “Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi always make it a point to address the SP leaders in their speeches. The bonhomie is very much evident and it is percolating to the workers at the grassroots,” says another Congress leader.

The SP and Congress struck an alliance in the 2017 Assembly polls but suffered a humiliating defeat. While the BJP swept the elections by securing 312 out of the total 403 seats, the SP managed to win only 47 out of the 311 seats it fought. The Congress won only seven out of the 114 seats it contested. The BJP bagged 39.67% of the vote share, the SP 21.82% and the Congress 6.25%. Though the SP allied with BSP and the RLD in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the alliance suffered at the hands of the ruling BJP. While SP won 5 of the 37 seats it fought, the BSP won 10 of the 38 seats it contested. The Congress got only one seat — Rae Bareli.

“This time, party workers are well aligned and are working in coordination. It is quite evident that the public wants change as the BJP regime has not delivered in the last 10 years,” says a Congress leader.

The crucial factor in favour of the alliance is the right messaging, better co-ordination, social engineering and the selection of candidates, says SP spokesperson Nidhi Yadav. The alliance will reap maximum benefit from the social engineering experiment that has created a wider social base, she says.

To revive its flagging fortunes after the 2022 Assembly polls, the SP has expanded its social base by creating a rainbow coalition of OBCs, Scheduled Castes and minorities which is called PDA (Pichhada, Dalit, Alpasankhyak). In the 62 seats that the SP is contesting as part of the INDIA bloc, the party has fielded only five Yadav candidates this time.

“Our party has been consistently raising the issue of caste census and socio-economic justice. The Dalit community is also disenchanted with the BSP and they feel cheated. They also don’t see any visionary leader for the BSP,” said Yadav adding that a large chunk of the BSP vote base Dalits and EBCs have come into the SP fold.

Perceived as a Yadav-Muslim party, SP has changed its strategy by giving only five tickets to Yadavs and four to Muslim candidates.

“SP has always been probackward, pro-Dalit pro-minorities and backwards. But the BJP has built this narrative of our party being a Yadav-Muslim party. Our party has done a fair ticket distribution this time. Every community, be it Nishad, Maurya, Yadavs or Muslims has been represented,” she says, adding the formidable alliance of SP and Congress will give a tough fight to the BJP this time.

While political observers believe that BJP is in a formidable position with its well-oiled machinery and resources, the opposition is also cornering the government on the issues of spiraling unemployment, inflation, farmer crisis and Agniveer. The Opposition narrative of the prospect of the BJP changing the Constitution if it returns to power, has resonated with Dalits, say observers.

Though the organizational structure of Congress is weak in the state, SP leaders say that they are working in tandem.

“It is not about being weak or strong. It is about being together and we are working for a common goal. It has energized the cadres. There are no spat between both the parties. We are confident that there will be complete transfer of votes from both sides,”says Yadav.

In the sixth phase, 14 seats of Uttar Pradesh will go to polls. It includes Sultanpur, Pratapgarh, Phulpur, Allahabad, Ambedkar Nagar, Domariyaganj, Sant Kabir Nagar, Lalganj, Azamgarh Jaunpur, Machhlishahr, Bhadohi, Shrawasti and Basti. “We are hopeful of winning in the Purvanchal area,” says a Congress worker.

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