Samajwadi Party registers third poor poll showing under Akhilesh Yadav
Nothing seems to work for Samajwadi Party (SP) national president Akhilesh Yadav. His comeback strategies have failed to deliver results, and the party’s performance has been on a steady downhill path from election to election.
Yadav, now 45, son of SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, seemed to be just what the SP needed when in the run-up to the Uttar Pradesh state assembly elections in 2012, he converted a rickety old vehicle of his father’s into what he called the Kranti Rath and toured the entire state.
Crediting him for the victory, his father, the then party president, stepped down and appointed Yadav as the party’s chief ministerial candidate.
It was to be his last electoral success. Akhilesh Yadav was chief minister when the SP went into the 2014 parliamentary polls under his leadership. Mulayam Singh was the national party chief, but Yadav was the de facto leader of the SP’s 2014 campaign.
By the time the elections ended, SP was down to five Lok Sabha seats, from 23 in 2009, as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) snapped up 71 of the 80 seats filled by UP in Parliament’s lower house.
“The party is puzzled. Akhilesh ji is a good leader, well-intentioned and well-meaning politician, yet things are not working his way,” an SP leader said on condition of anonymity.
Soon after the 2014 results, the famous Yadav family feud broke out, with uncle Shivpal Yadav challenging Yadav’s control in SP. Yadav won, and was appointed national president of the party, replacing Mulayam Singh, in January 2017.
The UP assembly elections that the party contested under Yadav’s absolute leadership just three months afterwards, came as a jolt to the SP, which won barely 47 seats in the 403-member legislature, down from 224 in 2012. BJP cleaned up 312 seats.
The vote share of the SP fell to 22% in the assembly polls in 2017, from 29.15% in 2012. Similarly, the vote share of the party in LS polls has also seen a decline.
In the 2009, SP’s vote share was 23.26%. In 2014, the vote share fell to 19.77%, and in 2019, it has slid further to 17.96%.
In 2014, Yadav had ruled out any kind of pre-poll alliance, projecting his father as a potential candidate for the post of prime minister. But in 2017, he struck an alliance with the Congress in an attempt to consolidate backward classes, Muslims, and upper caste voters.
When the alliance performed dismally, Mulayam Singh blamed Yadav for both debacles, in the 2014 LS polls and 2017 UP polls. The patriarch had been against the alliance all along.
History repeated itself. Before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Yadav joined hands with Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati, a one-time arch rival,to ensure that the anti-BJP vote would not split. Together, the two parties were considered a force to reckon with, and they in turn, counted on the support of Dalits, Other Backward Classes and Muslims.
The arithmetic didn’t work for the SP, which ended up with five seats, the same as its 2014 tally. And this time, three Yadavs family members and sitting MPs — Dimple Yadav, Dharmendra Yadav, and Akshaya Yadav — lost their bid for re-election. BSP gained 10 seats from zero in 2014.
Yadav may be a well-meaning politician, but he comes across as immature, said SK Dwivedi, a political analyst and retired head of the department of political science, Lucknow University.
“Yadav should have mended fences with Shivpal Yadav (his uncle) or should have allied with the Congress (in 2019). His father had cautioned him, yet Yadav went ahead with the alliance with the BSP, ignoring the history of the BSP’s alliance with SP earlier or any other party. BSP gained, BSP has revived; and SP lost,” Dwivedi said.