Uttar pradesh

In U.P., a humbling loss for Akhilesh

 Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav.

Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav. | Photo Credit: PTI

For somebody who threw the kitchen sink at the Bharatiya Janta Party during the election campaign, it has been a humbling loss for Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh.

Observers said everybody knew that nobody could defeat the BJP on the Hindutva pitch but Mr. Yadav got a ‘godsend opportunity’ in the form of the pandemic and farmers’ agitation. After a slow start and making some imprudent comments on vaccine and Jinnah, he recovered well by focusing on real issues and distancing himself from the Muslim party and the parivarvadi tag but ultimately lack of a discerning ideology and lack of commitment meant that he ran a reactive campaign where he kept on grappling the image of heading an unruly party that protects the Muslim mafia, amplified by the so-called nationalist media.

“The fact that he could not capitalise on the weakest moment of the ruling party in the last three elections has left him with a very narrow alley to manoeuvre in future,” said Asmer Baig, professor of Political Science at Aligarh Muslim University.

‘Not good enough’

Prof. Baig was among those who called the election in favour of the BJP. “It is like if you don’t score good marks in semesters, you can’t cover up in the final examination. So, even though he has doubled the tally, it is not good enough.”

Part of the Centre of Study for Developing Societies team that conducted the survey, Prof. Baig said that despite the inconsistency, Mr. Yadav was very much in the race with Yogi Adityanath in popularity sweepstakes but somehow could not convert it into votes. In front of 24X7 politicians such as Narendra Modi and Mr. Adityanath, the pro-BJP media presented Mr. Yadav as a privileged latecomer.

One invariable that hurt him the most was the decimation of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Observers said nobody expected the election to become so bipolar. There are several seats where the SP candidate has received more than 40% of votes but still lost. Despite Hathras and Unnao, the BJP was able to sell the perception that women were not safe during the SP rule. The absence of women in SP rallies provided fuel to the perception. The Congress was expected to wean a chunk of the female voters from the BJP. It didn’t happen.

On his part, Mr. Yadav did not prepare well for the eventuality. The BJP amplified the unruly image of the party workers that belong to one caste and Mr. Yadav could do little to counter it. The social alliance that he made just before the elections proved to be too little, too late. “He needs to work on improving the image of the Yadavs among the MBCs. Muslims are more than double the number of Yadavs in the State but their effort gets nullified because of the social faultlines that the Yadav clan has not been able to fill,” said a young Muslim SP leader. “Huddangi”, he said, was a relative term. “For some, those who climbed the Babri mosque were unruly.”

With the BSP out, he said, Mr. Yadav has the clear support of the minority community. “It is the MBCs who are in the thrall of the Hindutva that need to be won over by offering them a realistic share in the reservation and social status. It is not going to be easy and will take time.” With Azam Khan, Nahid Hasan and Abbas Ansari back in the Assembly, the BJP, after a pause, will start the Mafia rap again.

Pat from Pawar

For the time being, Mr. Yadav has received a pat on the back from Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar. In a tweet, the senior leader who is at the forefront of forming a third front, said, Mr. Yadav should not think about the polling results as he has high stature in the country. “He has fought better than before,” Mr. Pawar said. With 125-plus seats, Mr. Yadav is in a better position to send Rajya Sabha members and have a say in national politics, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls and perhaps wait for another godsend opportunity.

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Printable version | Mar 10, 2022 10:00:40 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/uttar-pradesh-assembly/in-up-a-humbling-loss-for-akhilesh/article65212075.ece