After days of discussion, Samajwadi Party (SP) president Akhilesh Yadav on Tuesday decided to take on the BJP as Leader of Opposition in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly. He has retained the Karhal seat and submitted his resignation from the Azamgarh parliamentary constituency to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla. He won the Karhal seat by defeating Union Minister S.P. Baghel by a margin of over 67,000 votes to become an MLA for the first time.
Senior party leader Azam Khan also quit from the Rampur Lok Sabha seat and decided to retain the Rampur Sadar seat that he won for the ninth time recently.
While experts praised Mr. Yadav for running an effective campaign, they also criticised him for being missing from the ground in the first 4.5 years of the BJP government. Recently, former Rashtriya Lok Dal president Masood Ahmed, in his resignation letter, pointed out that the key to the success of Mr. Yadav’s father Mulayam Singh Yadav was spending time among people.
SP spokesperson Abdul Hafeez Gandhi said Mr. Akhilesh Yadav’s presence as Leader of Opposition would bolster the confidence of the party workers and strengthen it to take on the BJP on the streets. With his uncle, Shivpal Yadav, proving to be a spent force in the recent elections, local observers felt Mr. Akhilesh Yadav needed to spend time in his native region where the party has not been able to reverse the gains made by the BJP in 2017.
Its impact could be seen in the ongoing process for the election of Members of the Legislative Council. Party MLC Udayveer Singh was allegedly heckled and roughed up by BJP supporters in Etah twice in two days when he went to submit papers. “On both days, he was attacked in the presence of the police. The election officer said one affidavit was missing and the BJP candidate was declared elected, unopposed” said Mr. Gandhi.
The incident found resonance in the social media groups of the party as an SP leader getting cornered in Etah was something that was unheard of.
A section of SP supporters blamed the leadership for putting up with leaders who could not defend themselves, in the name of changing the image of the party.
Allies welcome decision
Mr. Yadav’s decision has found support among the allies. Sanjay Rajbhar, a senior leader of the Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party and a close confidant of Om Prakash Rajbhar, said Mr. Yadav had taken the right step. “As an ally, we gave our best and the result could be seen in the last two phases. The alliance swept Azamgarh and Ambedkar Nagar and performed exceedingly well in Mau and Ghazipur. There were many seats where the margin of loss was in three digits. It is in the first five phases that the SP failed to give its best and Mr Yadav’s presence will help in recovering the lost ground,” he stated.
Now it remains to be seen who will replace Mr. Yadav as the party candidate from Azamgarh. Names of wife and former MP Dimple Yadav and cousin Dharmendra Yadav are doing the rounds but local observers say Mr. Yadav won’t allow the ‘parivarvadi’ tag to stick anymore.