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Friday, Aug 16, 2019

SP faces a fresh challenge in state elections after Neeraj’s crossover

There is speculation that more leaders may be planning to quit the party.

india Updated: Jul 29, 2019 08:01 IST
Pankaj Jaiswal
Neeraj Shekhar, former Samajwadi Party leader, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Neeraj Shekhar, former Samajwadi Party leader, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party.(Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)

Pushed to the margin in the Lok Sabha polls, the Samajwadi Party (SP) seems to be facing a new challenge in the wake of the party’s prominent Rajya Sabha face Neeraj Shekhar crossing over to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) camp.

There is speculation that more leaders may be planning to quit the party. This comes at a time when SP chief Akhilesh Yadav is trying to reboot the organisation and prepare his workers for the upcoming assembly by-elections to 13 seats in Uttar Pradesh.

The BJP, the Bahujan Samaj Party, and the Congress, have already started gearing up for these bypolls, likely to be announced in September.

Earlier this year, the SP, the BSP and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) had formed an alliance for the Lok Sabha polls, but failed to stop the BJP’s march in the state. While the SP won only five of the 37 seats it contested and the BSP 10 out of 38, the BJP had a massive victory with a tally of 62.

Three members of the Yadav clan — Dimple Yadav, Dharmendra Yadav and Akshay Yadav — lost the elections.

The BSP, which drew a blank in 2014, turned out to be the only gainer in the alliance. Setting the tone for the party’s bypoll campaign, BSP chief Mayawati had on June 24 announced snapping of ties with the Samajwadi Party. Though she blamed the SP for alliance coming a cropper at the hustings, Akhilesh Yadav chose not to hit back.

Akhilesh, who returned to Lucknow on July 9 after a 10-day overseas vacation, and immediately got down to galvanizing the cadre for the polls, but the cadre is disheartened after successive defeats and now Neeraj Shekhar’s resignation crossing over to BJP, said a senior party leader on condition of anonymity.

Samajwadi Party spokesperson and former UP minister, Rajendra Chaudhary said: “No one is leaving the party. Neeraj Shekhar should have exercised some decency. He had lost the elections and despite that Akhilesh ji was gracious enough to send him to the Rajya Sabha.”

For its part, the BJP has held two core committee meetings featuring chief minister Yogi Adityanath. Several preparatory meetings have also been held in which ministers have been given charge of each of the assembly seats where by-polls are due.

The BJP has also rolled out a membership drive focusing on Dalits and other backward classes (OBCs). It also plans to connect with beneficiaries of various government schemes.

The Congress, which fought the Lok Sabha election to revive the party in the state, is also ahead of the SP when it comes to preparations for elections. Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has appointed two leaders as in-charge of each of the 13 seats.

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) national president Mayawati had held four meetings with top party leaders in Delhi and six cadre meetings in Lucknow on May 23.

Effecting major changes in the party, Mayawati named her brother Anand Kumar as the vice-president of the party on June 23 and nephew Akash Kumar as national coordinator. She also expelled senior party leader Ram Veer Upadhaya, who was a minister in her government, on charges of “anti-party activities in LS polls”.

On the other hand, Akhilesh Yadav has not executed changes in the party outfit.

When asked whether the Samajwadi Party is late in launching its bypoll campaign, Rajendra Chaudhary, SP state spokesperson and a former minister, said: “No, we are not late. Bypolls are likely to be held in October. Akhileshji has begun activating the party. We will soon reconstitute all the booth committees in the bypoll constituencies and the party outfit will be reactivated there and functionaries will be appointed.”

Bypolls are necessitated because of the election of 11 MLAs to the Lok Sabha. These seats are Iglas (SC), Zaidpur (SC), Balha (SC), Tundla (SC), Manikpur, Gangoh, Rampur, Jalalpur, Pratapgarh, Lucknow Cantonment, and Govindnagar.

In addition, the Hamirpur BJP MLA’s membership was cancelled following his conviction in a two-decade old murder case.

One more seat fell vacant as the Ghosi MLA Phagu Chauhan who has been made the Governor (designate) of Bihar quit his UP Assembly membership on July 26.

According to analysts, Akhilesh faces many challenges for the bypolls as the party had put up a poor show in three successive elections: the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the 2017 assembly elections, and the 2019 LS polls.

His party had done well in 2018, winning three Lok Sabha seats and one assembly bypoll in alliance with Rashtriya Lok Dal. Professor SK Dwivedi, retired head of department of political science at Lucknow University, said: “The Samajwadi Party has many challenges considering the unstoppable BJP and the Bahujan Samaj Party that has badly stung SP.”

“Yet, he will have to start fresh. An alliance with any major political party will not be a good idea for Akhilesh. Rather, now both he and his uncle Shivpal Yadav should make up and come together again. I understand that the Shivpal camp has been sending feelers to the SP for a reunion. Reuniting just might help Akhilesh to prevent further desertion.”

Earlier this months, Shivpal Yadav, who heads the Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (PSP), had told reporters that he was ready to forge an alliance with Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party for the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, which is slated to be held in 2022.

First Published: Jul 29, 2019 00:09 IST

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