‘UP ke Ladke’ to ‘Bua’ Mayawati, Star-Crossed Tie-Ups Have Hurt SP. Will Road to 2024 be Lonely for Akhilesh?

The Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party seems to be failing when it comes to keeping its flock together. Barring a few instances, the party has failed to maintain its pre-poll alliances with nearly all of its major partners — a trend seen since 2017 when Akhilesh Yadav took over as the SP chief.

In 2017, the Samajwadi Party had forged an alliance with the Congress which was then led by Rahul Gandhi. The coming together of ‘UP ke Ladke’ was expected to begin a new chapter in the political history of the state during the 2017 UP assembly polls. While the Samajwadi Party was in power, its reputation was damaged by the family in-fighting in the Yadav clan. Akhilesh Yadav’s uncle Shivpal Yadav went alone to form a breakaway group of his own after alleging that he was not getting “due respect” from his nephew.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, arch rivals SP and Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party came together with a message that polarization would no longer work and backwards and minorities would come together. The results were unexpected as Mayawati’s BSP rose from zero to 10 MPs while SP managed to bag just five seats. This alliance, too, was short-lived.

In 2022, SP announced alliance with Chaudhary Jayant-led Rashtriya Lok Dal, Keshav Dev Maurya-led Mahan Dal and Om Prakash Rajbhar-led Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party. The alliance did well but it was not enough to form a government in the state.

In the recent Lok Sabha bypolls held in Rampur and Azamgarh, which were considered SP bastions, the alliance failed to work its magic and SP lost both the seats to BJP.

While on one hand, the Samajwadi Party has failed in keeping its alliances together — be it Congress, BSP, PSPL or Rajbhar’s SBSP — the BJP has been successful in keeping its allies close, whether it be the Apna Dal (S), Nishad Party or any other smaller political outfits.

The Samajwadi Party, however, thinks of alliances as “experiments” which may not always work. Speaking to News18, spokesperson Abdul Hafiz Gandhi said: “Alliances are forged keeping in view the ideology of the party and the assessment of the ground situation. Depending on these two factors, we entered into alliances in 2017, 2019 and 2022. Alliance formations are experiments. Sometimes they work; sometimes they fail. We learn from these failures and try our best to give better performance in future elections.”

After losing SP bastions of Rampur and Azamgarh, Akhilesh Yadav made some organisational changes in the party but at the moment, nothing seems to be working in his favour. Some political analysts have even started to say that the politics of Samajwadi Party is now on a downward curve, especially at a time when the BJP is already in action mode for 2024.

Even the MY combination (Muslim-Yadav) which stood firmly with the Samajwadi Party once has failed on several occasions amid allegations that Akhilesh Yadav was not taking a stand for the community. The BJP, meanwhile, has worked on bringing Yadav voters to its fold and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also said that a plan should be made to reach out to the Muslim community.

The Muslim voters have, of late, been vocal against the SP chief on many occasions, including the alleged laxity shown by Akhilesh Yadav in the case of Azam Khan. The entry of players like Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM has also cut into the Muslim vote bank, which was once considered the prized possession of the Samajwadi Party. The disenchantment of Muslim voters with the Samajwadi Party was recently seen in the Azamgarh bypolls where BSP candidate Guddu Jamali bagged more than 2.5 lakh votes, ultimately leading to the loss of SP candidate Dharmendra Yadav.

With less than a year-and-a-half to go for the 2024 general elections, SP has intensified its membership drive in an attempt to revive and rejuvenate its cadres. The Samajwadi Party will also now be focussing on booth-level committees.

“We are making our strategy and preparing for 2024. We have launched a membership drive to strengthen the party organisation. Our plan is to infuse new blood and energy by bringing in more and more youth. Akhilesh Yadav ji has dissolved all major units of the party to fill them again with motivated and energetic party workers. We are also doing work on strengthening the booth committees and other necessary steps are also being initiated to better the party’s performance in 2024,” said Gandhi.

For now, with only RLD by its side, the road to 2024 seems lonely for Akhilesh Yadav.

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