SP’s war room a battlefield as UP poll strategists struggle to get plans in sync

A bitter family feud and a last-minute alliance with the Congress have left the Samajwadi Party (SP) poll strategists in a quandary as they struggle to find common ground internally.

assembly elections Updated: Feb 06, 2017 12:37 IST
Danish Raza and Gaurav Saigal
Danish Raza and Gaurav Saigal
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
UP elections,UP assembly elections,2017 assembly elections
The Samajwadi Party’s war room appears tech-savvy and well-organised on the surface. However, the deeper one goes, the deeper the cracks seem to run.(Deepak Gupta/HT Photo)

A bitter family feud and a last-minute alliance with the Congress have left the Samajwadi Party (SP) poll strategists in a quandary.

The dilemma before them is to make up for the time lost in dilly-dallying over the alliance, while putting in place an effective strategy in sync with conflicting ideas of the party’s various internal groups.

A turf war over the control of the party between chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and his uncle Shivpal Yadav had threatened to split the party in the run up to the elections, changing many equations.

At present three teams are involved in the SP’s poll campaign, but a lack of synergy between them is palpable.

Many components of the campaign, mooted by Steve Jarding, professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, and his former student Adwait Vikram Singh, could not be implemented, a party source told HT.

Read | Goodwill hunting: Can SP-Cong alliance capitalise Akhilesh’s vote base in the UP election

Jarding and Singh are assisting Akhilesh in executing a campaign plan based on voter matrix- database including demographic spread of voters across the state; their voting preferences and their perception about the CM.

Information obtained by 300 telecallers, working at a call centre established for the election, is fed into this database.

Apart from this, a state-wide cadre base of yojana pramukhs was supposed to be formed to become the backbone of the campaign, especially in rural areas.

They were to highlight the CM’s achievements to subtly tilt public opinion in his favour. But till date, the CM could not announce the formation of this cadre base, ostensibly due to the differences in opinion in the party over the idea.

As a part of the original campaign plan, the chief minister was to tour the state on a Vijay Rath, a Mercedes bus equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, beginning September.

It was flagged off, but postponed due to the infighting.

Sitting in a glass cabin on the first floor of Janeshwar Mishra Trust compound, attached to the SP headquarters, head of the party’s war room, former BBC employee Aashish Yadav, said he would prefer talking about the future.

Aashish Yadav, in-charge of the Samajwadi Party’s war room, is a former BBC employee and brings to the ruling party’s campaign a technical edge. (Deepak Gupta/ HT Photo)

Aashish’s team is split into four verticals: creatives, research, news monitoring and digital.

The team’s challenge is to keep itself updated 24X7, respond to a remark made by leaders of rival partiesand incorporate materials from the party’s manifesto in its publicity kit.

Bollywood lyricist Manoj Yadav-- who has penned songs for films such as Raees, Piku and Nil Battey Sannata-- heads the creative team.

He had written the SP anthem ‘Mann se hai Mulayam, Aur Iraade Loha Hain’ for the 2014 general elections. Manoj said his latest campaign line for the SP, ‘Kaam Bolta Hai’ came from a one-line brief he got from the CM: “It should highlight not me but the works of my government.”

Bulandshahr native Anshuman Sharma heads the research team. Based on this team’s reports, the CM decides which issues he should raise while canvassing in a certain region or city.

Anshuman Sharma heads the Samajwadi Party’s campaign’s research department. (Deepak Gupta/ HT Photo)

On the surface, it appears the war room is having a smooth run. Go little deep, and the infighting starts showing up.

Aashish and his team members did not comment on the roles and responsibilities of the team working under Jarding.

When asked who coined the campaign line of the SP-Congress alliance, ‘UP ko ye saath pasand hai’, Aashish replied: “Maybe Congress? We will have to figure out.”

There is a third team involved in campaigning, headed by Prashant Kishor, who was supposed to devise the Congress’s poll strategy for UP and Punjab.

His team is now supervising the joint campaign of the alliance in UP. Kishor’s team gave the campaign line ‘UP ko ye saath pasand hai’.

“We are completely involved in the campaign and were never asked to leave as reported in some sections of the media,” a member of the team said.

“We have handled the joint campaign of Mahagathbandhan in Bihar and the current situation is similar to that. Post-alliance, our job is to handle joint rallies and road shows of the alliance,” he added.

First Published: Feb 06, 2017 06:52 IST