Can Akhilesh Yadav’s southern push help Samajwadi Party pursue national ambitions? - Hindustan Times
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Can Akhilesh Yadav’s southern push help Samajwadi Party pursue national ambitions?

By, Lucknow
Aug 18, 2023 01:22 AM IST

The visits have been made even though the Samajwadi Party has won only a handful of seats in the south since its inception 31 years ago.

Samajwadi Party (SP) national president Akhilesh Yadav has been making frequent forays to south India of late, coinciding with the party’s stated goal of graduating from a regional force to a national one.

Samajwadi Party national president with Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao in Hyderabad in July. (FILE PHOTO)
Samajwadi Party national president with Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao in Hyderabad in July. (FILE PHOTO)

Akhilesh Yadav visited Telangana in January and July, Tamil Nadu in March and Kerala in June this year.

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The leaders he met included Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao, his Kerala counterpart Pinarayi Vijayan and Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin, besides the Samajwadi Party’s Telangana and Andhra Pradesh unit leaders.

The visits have been made even though the Samajwadi Party has won only a handful of seats in the south since its inception 31 years ago.

Explaining the frequency of the visits, party leaders said a term coined by Samajwadi Party chief to stand for Pichda (backward castes), Dalit and Alpsankhyak (minorities) account for 75-80% of the population in these states.

The visits took place even as Telangana assembly polls are likely to be held in November this year, more or less around the time when assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Mizoram will also be held. Before the Lok Sabha elections in 2024, these assembly polls would present an opportunity for the SP to test the electoral waters. The Andhra Pradesh assembly polls may be held with the parliamentary elections.

Founded in 1992 by the late Mulayam Singh Yadav, the SP made its most noticeable bid for national status in 2004 when it fielded 237 candidates in the Lok Sabha polls. The party won 36 seats -- 35 in Uttar Pradesh and one in Uttarakhand back then. By contrast, in 2019, it fielded only 49 candidates in the Lok Sabha elections.

Addressing the party’s national convention in Lucknow on September 29, 2022, Akhilesh Yadav had said, “Let’s pledge to make the party a national party by the time when we meet at the next national convention.”

Outside Uttar Pradesh, the SP has won assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, united Andhra Pradesh (bagging a seat that now falls in Telangana) and Gujarat. It also bagged one Lok Sabha seat in Karnataka in 2005 and the Channapatna assembly seat in 2013.

(SP candidate S Bangarappa won the Shivamogga LS seat in Karnataka in 2005).

The SP’s best performance outside Uttar Pradesh was in Madhya Pradesh in 2003 when the party won seven assembly seats.

According to the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968, a political party can be recognised as a national party if it satisfies any of the following three conditions: If the party wins at least 2% of seats in the Lok Sabha (the lower house of Parliament) from at least three different states in a general election; if the party secures at least 6% of the total valid votes polled in any four or more states, at a general election to the Lok Sabha or to the Legislative Assembly; if the party is recognized as a state party in at least four states.

While the SP notched up a poll percentage of over 32 (in 2022 U.P. assembly polls), it could never touch the 6% mark in any of the other states.

In 2018, the SP had fielded 28 candidates in the Telangana assembly elections. None of them won.

So, there is scope for a southward push? Telangana SP state president Prof S Simhadri said: “Indeed.”

“It was in Hyderabad that Dr Ram Manohar Lohia had founded the Socialist Party, of which the SP is considered an offshoot. The SP will contest both the forthcoming assembly and Lok Sabha polls in Telangana. The outfit is fully active and prepared in the state. Akhileshji’s new formula of PDA (Pichada, Dalit, and Alpsankhyak) is being popularised in the state. Telangana has roughly 60% OBCs, including 12% Yadavs. The PDA forms roughly over 75% of the state. Telangana has 17 LS seats and 119 assembly seats,” he said.

Simhadri also said: “In 2004, DK Aruna won her first election on the Samajwadi Party ticket from Gadwal which now falls in Telangana (and served as a minister in the YS Rajshekhar Reddy’s Andra Pradesh cabinet. She later joined the Congress and is currently the BJP national vice-president).”

While Akhilesh maintains good relations with KCR, he also has cordial relations with the YSR Congress chief and Andhra Pradesh chief minister Jagan Mohan Reddy.

Simhadri’s Andra Pradesh counterpart B Jagdeesh Yadav said: “Netaji (Mulayam Singh Yadav) had sown the seeds. All the southern India units of the SP are old units...now is the time for those seeds to sprout and grow.”

In Karnataka, the SP fielded 17 candidates in the 2023 assembly elections but could not win any even though Yadav had extensively campaigned for three days there.

Prof SK Dwivedi, a political analyst and former head of the department of political science, at Lucknow University, said: “The SP is certainly a powerful party and it could have been a national party earlier. If it tries seriously, it can win national status. Of course, his (Akhilesh Yadav’s) frequent trips and meetings in south India indicate that he is looking for alliances there either with the regional parties or the Congress.

If he manages to get some seats in alliances outside U.P. and fields winnable candidates, his party can win the national status.”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Pankaj Jaiswal is Chief of Bureau, Uttar Pradesh and covers politics. His continued interest in rural, distress, and development journalism, fetched him a handful of prestigious awards and fellowships. Pankaj is a photo-journalist too and tweets at @augustus29lotus

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