Billboards put up by Akhliesh Yadav loyalists in Uttar Pradesh played a key role in depicting the changing political narrative and the bitter power tussle in the Yadav family, culminating in the UP chief minister’s victory.
Put up on either side of roads leading to the Samajwadi Party (SP) headquarters and other strategic locations in Lucknow, these dozen-odd hoardings grabbed eyeballs and created a buzz for the unique manner in which they depicted the unfolding family feud and drama.
“We first tried the experiment when chief minister Akhilesh Yadav asked me to showcase the launch of Lucknow Metro Rail, his dream project,” said Sunil Singh ‘Sajan’, an MLC and close aide of Akhilesh.
Hoardings were put all across Lucknow showing the UP CM overlooking the Metro coach with the punch line—’Cycle se Metro, aapke Akhilesh ne kar dikhaya mitron’ (From cycle to metro train, Akhilesh has delivered, friends).
“It was our first hoarding. We wanted to convey the message that CM Akhilesh Yadav has delivered on what he promised. Besides, it was important for us that out election symbol also got a mention. I am glad that it was appreciated,” Sajan told Hindustan Times.
The CM roped him in again to do a similar publicity blitzkrieg and drum up support in his favour in the Yadav ‘pari-war.’ His proximity to the CM led to his expulsion by Shivpal Yadav during his brief tenure as the state president of the SP. The doors of SP office were closed on him, but Sajan used the billboard idea to project the ‘other side of the story in the unfolding drama.’ The first opportunity came when a national convention was called at the Janeshwar Mishra Park where Akhilesh was to be appointed as national president of the SP, ousting his father Mulayam. The hoarding which became the talk of town was of Akhilesh and Mulayam with the punchline ‘Loha Tap, Kundan Bhaya’ referring to Akhilesh maturing into a seasoned politician and administrator. The billboard was immediately shared by Akhilesh on his twitter account.
When relations between Akhilesh-Mulayam and Shivpal soured and Akhilesh was projected as a son who had rebelled against his father, the tag lines on these hoardings changed: a series of billboards were put up with pictures of only Mulayam and Akhilesh.
“We decided to focus on the emotional aspect and the father-son relationship,” the SP MLC said.
The taglines put up on display said: ‘Pita se jeewan, Pradesh se Lakshya (life from father, goal UP). Subsequent messages tried to restore party workers’ confidence.
‘Vishwas rakhein vikas rukega nahi, UP jhukega Nahin, wada hai aapke Akhilesh Ka.” (Development will not come to a halt, UP will not lag behind, that’s Akhilesh’s promise).
Another one made an appeal to SP leaders: ‘Sath rahein...’ followed by ‘aage badhe.’ (Stay together and move forward).
The Election Commission verdict allotting the party symbol to Akhilesh was greeted with ‘aapki cycle sada chalegi aapke naam se’ (your cycle will also run in your name) with a picture of Akhilesh with folded hands to express his gratitude to party workers. But the finale came with ‘Pedal hum chalayenge, handle aap sambhaliye’ with a big picture of Mulayam in the backdrop.
“We still hold ‘Netaji’ (Mulayam) in very high esteem and this campaign conveys that message,” said Sajan.
Most of these hoardings were shared among thousands of SP supporters and galvanised them into action. “I am glad that the efforts of our leader have finally led to a happy ending in the family with father and son coming together,” says Sajan adding that there was more to come as the battle of the ballot takes off.