With several prominent Muslim leaders deserting it in the recent past, the SP faces a big challenge of finding a credible Muslim face.
The latest setback came this week when Mohammand Azam Khan was expelled for alleged anti-party activities leaving the SP with virtually no prominent Muslim leader.
In a damage control exercise, the party appointed Waqar Ahmed Shah, a four-time MLA, as the deputy leader of the SP in the state assembly in place of Khan to assuage the sentiments of minorities who are getting closer to Congress as reflected in the outcome of the just concluded Lok Sabha polls.
The Samajwadi Party which had won 35 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in UP in 2004 had to rest content with 23 seats this time, while Congress improved its tally from nine in 2004 to 21 now.
To fill the vacuum, the party appointed Ahmed Hasan as the leader of the opposition in the Vidhan Parishad but he is not considered as a leader with mass support.
Party sources said SP would be looking forward to leaders like Zafar Alam, who unsuccessfully contested Aligarh Lok Sabha seat but polled almost 90 per cent Muslim votes, besides MLAs Mehboob Ali, Iqbal Mehmood and Shahid Manzoor who lost in the Lok Sabha polls to fill the gap.
The party which was once considered to be the first choice among the minorities was taken by surprise in the Lok Sabha polls as all its 11 Muslims candidates lost.