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Can he win it for SP this time?
Playing second fiddle in the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh’s election strategy focuses more on Akhilesh Yadav rather than himself. The reason is simple. The party wants to tap youth and Muslim voters in the state.
Issue Date - 10/11/2011
Mulayam Singh Yadav is keen to tap his son Akhilesh’s youth appeal for Uttar Pradesh (UP) polls this time. In fact, this is one reason that the Samajwadi Party (SP) headquarters in Lucknow reverberate with loud slogans everyday as party cadets mouth anti-Mayawati slogans apart from praising Akhilesh. They allege charges of corruption against arch rival Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) and are appealing the masses to root out the ruling party.

Mulayam Singh Yadav, as one of the stalwarts of UP politics, has been at the centre stage of it all. Surprisingly though, he was seen as calm and composed during the entire pre-poll campaigning, and he did not spew any venom against his rival Mayawati or her party. Yadav’s “Kranti Rath Yatra” was about to commence. However, the yatra is being led by his blue-eyed politician son Akhilesh Singh Yadav lately, touted as the next leader of the party for the ensuing polls. This poll would be a turning point for veteran socialist leader Mulayam, who is promoting his foreign-educated son Akhilesh’s political future in the current socio-political scenario of the state.

Handing over his political reins to Akhilesh was symbolic for his fight against rival political parties. Moreover, this was the first time when SP strongman Mulayam Singh Yadav did not address any election meetings. Mulayam’s silence this time is strategic and well planned in a bid to woo 3.5 million young voters who are going to exercise their franchise for the first time. He is confident that his energetic and educated son will draw young voters to change the party’s fortunes in the northern state.

An expert in politics of the ‘Yadava’ clan, Mulayam Singh had won assembly elections for a record 10 times in the state and was UP’s Chief Minister for three terms. A clever politician since the age of 15, Mulayam knows that given his age and appeal, he may not succeed in gaining support of young voters in the state anymore.

In fact, he knows fully well that even prominent party leaders Ram Gopal and Shiva Gopal may not match up to Akhilesh, and neither can they garner youth appeal among voters. Recently, Rahul Gandhi has also surfaced for the Congress on UP’s political platform at every possible opportunity. So every political party in effect is promoting their young and visionary faces to attract the new voters, who would be crucial for the next government in the state. Thus, English-speaking Akhilesh is the natural choice for the seasoned politician.

Akhilesh, who has already achieved the stature of a youth leader in the state, is also a better choice since he is modern and has access to masses in rural areas too, where he reaches out riding on a bicycle or by driving a car. Also a parliamentarian, he had been in charge of SP’s youth affairs, before being promoted to the post of party president.

Mulayam Singh Yadav, after forming the SP in November 22, 1992 in Lucknow, revived the socialist movement which was just about breathing its last in UP. His struggle against Mayawati’s Dalit-centric BSP has been long and bitter. It is for his struggle that scores of SP followers were violently attacked and sent to jail by the Mayawati government. Akhilesh, Shivpal and other key party leaders were also arrested and even Mulayam was put under house arrest.

But despite all of Mayawati’s stern actions against him and his party, Mulayam did not allow the intensity of his agitations to temper down, and he has continued his aggressive agitation against the BSP for the assembly polls. Political observers say that SP is the only political party which could be BSP’s major foe in the state. “Anti-incumbency vote can turn to favour SP due to its continuous struggle and efforts. SP is the only party which has consistently raised its voice against the ruling party and in some aspect, it should gain,” political analyst Dr. Subrokamal Dutta tells B&E.

In fact, Mulayam would be well aware of the fact that even a 3% vote swing in the state can play a crucial role in the formation of the SP government in Uttar Pradesh. There was a difference of 5% votes between SP and BSP in the last state assembly polls in 2006. With 25.43% votes, SP could wrest victory in just 97 seats while BSP, with 30.43% votes, formed the majority with its thumping triumph over 206 seats. Once known to have a strong grip on the nerve of minority Muslim voters who carry 18% of the votes in the state, SP is looking to regain its edge over the community. It has been observed that 80 urban seats are from constituencies dominated by Muslims. UP’s Muslim voters have so far maintained a distance from Congress and have shown their keen interest in SP. A lot of work has been done by SP to retain the minority voters who had rejected the party in the last assembly elections and they had come out in support of BSP. But the minority voters who are now agitated with BSP could script a totally different story for SP in forthcoming election.


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