Keeping up with UP | PDA has helped SP dilute the controversial M-Y factor - Hindustan Times
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Keeping up with UP | PDA has helped SP dilute the controversial M-Y factor

BySunita Aron
May 19, 2024 09:00 AM IST

Now PDA's political puissance will be tested in east UP where BJP made inroads in the OBC vote bank and emerged victorious

Ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the Samajwadi Party (SP) national president Akhilesh Yadav often spoke about the party’s ‘PDA strategy to defeat the NDA.’ Not many understood its political significance until it started creating a buzz.

Lucknow, May 18 (ANI): Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav holds a roadshow in support of party candidate from Lucknow, Ravidas Mehrotra ahead of the fifth phase of Lok Sabha Polls, in Lucknow on Friday. (ANI Photo) (Samajwadi Party-X) PREMIUM
Lucknow, May 18 (ANI): Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav holds a roadshow in support of party candidate from Lucknow, Ravidas Mehrotra ahead of the fifth phase of Lok Sabha Polls, in Lucknow on Friday. (ANI Photo) (Samajwadi Party-X)

The acronym PDA (Pichada, Dalit, Alpasankhyak) stands for a rainbow coalition of OBCs, Scheduled Castes and minorities, which together comprise over 80% of UP's population. Politically, minorities largely owed allegiance to SP, Dalits to the Bahujan Samaj Party, the non-Yadav OBCs to the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)

In fact, over a period of time, the BJP has cultivated a larger chunk of OBCs, especially the economically weaker and scattered sections besides creating a wedge within the Dalit community. To put it simply, OBCs have played a pivotal role in the BJP’s victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha and 2022 Vidhan Sabha elections.

Thus, murmurs in the political quarters were obvious when the PDA slogan started growing louder as the elections moved to eastern UP where OBC votes are decisive.

Athar Hussain, secretary at the Lucknow-based Centre for Objective Research and Development, said: “East UP is PDA’s battlefield, we will know whether Akhilesh’s PDA works or Modi's magic.”

According to party leaders, who asked not to be named, a group of Ambedkarites approached the SP chief soon after the 2019 Lok Sabha election fought together by the SP-BSP, advising him to try to be more inclusive and expand his vote base of M-Y (Muslims and Yadavs) if he had to grow his party and stop the BJP’s growth. Soon after, the SP formed Babasaheb Ambedkar Vahini, which works independently of the party organisation.

Though the founder president of the party Mulayam Singh Yadav was often flanked by various caste leaders, who were given prime positions in the party, the SP carried the label of MY- a party of Muslim and Yadavs. The common perception in other castes was that only these two communities flourished in the party.

Even after Akhilesh entered into caste alliances with the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) of Om Prakash Rajbhar (OBC) and Kurmi-based Apna Dal (K), the M-Y label did not go through the party seats went up from 47 in 2017 to 111 in the 2022 state elections. Rajbhar soon quit the party and is now BJP’s ally.

Even during the days of Mulayam, Ram Saran Das, who was made state president of the party for life, started affixing Gujar to his name to dispel the growing MY notion in the early 1990s when tussle for OBC votes started between various factions of the Janata Dal.

The other known political buddies of Mulayam were Beni Prasad Verma ( Kurmi), Reoti Raman Singh ( Bhumihar), Janeshwar Mishra ( Brahmin), Mohd Azam Khan ( Muslim), Bhagwati Singh ( Rajput) et al. They all were stalwarts and their voice mattered in the party

Akhilesh had recently made a significant change in the party to display his commitment to PDA in his bid to dent the OBC vote bank of the BJP. But that too went unnoticed in the din over elections.

Naresh Uttam Patel, who was one of the founding members of the Samajwadi Party, was appointed state president in January 2017. He is a Kurmi and after he was fielded from Fatehpur Lok Sabha seat, Akhilesh replaced him with another OBC leader Shyam Lal Pal, who is from Allahabad and had contested election on Apna Dal ticket.

But it is the ticket distribution for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections that has created an unending buzz though it is yet to be seen how it would benefit the party electorally.

Of the 62 seats he is contesting, only four were given to Muslims. While there were murmurs of dissent given the small number of tickets, party members and workers from the community reconciled with it for a larger gain as their fight is to stop the BJP’s return to power rather than increase their representation in Parliament alone.

Amongst the 30 OBC, only five tickets were given to Yadavs, while Shakyas, Maurya, and Kushwaha got six, Kurmis, 10, and Nishads four. The SC got 17 seats.

Many experts consider the party’s decision to field SC from two unreserved constituencies -Suneeta Maurya, Jatav from Meerut seat, and Awadhesh Prasad, a Pasi from Faizabad, as a political masterstroke which may help them to take away a slice of their votes, especially when the BSP is inactive when the heat over changes in the Constitution are picking up.

However, political analyst Badri Narain has been consistently of the view that such moves may not dent the OBC vote bank of the BJP for various reasons, including welfare schemes.

Thus, while in the Lok Sabha election, the PDA may not deliver high dividends immediately, it helps the SP in two ways. First, it dispels the MY factor, second it helps them penetrate the SC and non-Yadav OBC vote banks, especially the scattered subcastes spread out across UP and were not united under one banner till BJP enticed them with various schemes.

Alongside, the party is forming PDA ‘senani’ at the booth level to implement their strategy.

Manoj Paswan, leader of SP’s student's wing, and convenor of the PDA ‘senani’ scheme claims that groups have already been formed at the booth level from Lucknow to Ghazipur in eastern UP. “We will do our best to fulfil the dream of BR Ambedkar. There are so many economically and socially weak subcastes of SC and OBCs, which are rudderless. They are not politically united.”

Sunita Aron is a consulting editor with the HT based in Lucknow. You can find her on X as @overto. The weekly column, Keeping up with UP tackles everything from politics to social and cultural mores in the country's most populous state. The views expressed are personal.

 

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