Akhilesh Yadav: What the next five years hold for key leaders | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Akhilesh Yadav: What the next five years hold for key leaders

Jun 04, 2024 09:15 PM IST

Yadav expanded the SP’s tent and consciously brought in representatives from other backward communities

If there is one leader who learnt the right lessons from BJP’s Hindi heartland success over the past decade, and managed to reshape his own party based on the success of its rival, it is Akhilesh Yadav.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav. (ANI)
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav. (ANI)

The past decade has been tough for Yadav. In 2014, as chief minister (CM) under the shadow of his father and uncles, he saw the Samajwadi Party (SP) face a rout as the Narendra Modi wave swept Uttar Pradesh (UP). In 2017, he confronted a bruising feud within his own family and then saw the BJP win the state assembly elections decisively with Yogi Adityanath taking over as the CM. Yadav had allied with Congress in those elections, a move that helped neither party. In 2019, Yadav joined hands with his arch rival, Mayawati; yet, the BJP managed to comfortably win over 60 seats from the state. And Yadav confronted his fourth consecutive electoral defeat in 2022 as Adityanath returned to power.

But Yadav, 50, recognised that the BJP’s success stemmed from two weaknesses that had come to characterise the SP rule. The first was the reduction of the party from being an umbrella formation of backward groups to being seen as a Yadav party that allowed its caste loyalists to run riot during stints in power to becoming an outfit of a single Yadav family.

This allowed the BJP to construct a coalition of which a core component were the non-Yadav other backward classes (OBCs) that were resentful that opportunities and power didn’t percolate down to them under Yadav dominance. The second was the widespread impression that the SP was partial to Muslims in administration, law enforcement, political appointments and symbolism while in power. This allowed the BJP to construct a wider Hindu coalition that was apprehensive of SP’s return to power.

What Yadav did therefore was correct both these impressions through substantive steps. For one, he expanded the SP’s tent once again and consciously brought in representatives from other backward communities; as this paper reported, the SP gave only half a dozen tickets to Yadav candidates in these elections and instead enhanced representation of both smaller OBC groups and Dalit subgroups, including Jatavs who were looking for options beyond a weak Mayawati and an inconsistent BJP. And, two, while retaining his Muslim support base which consolidated behind the SP-Congress alliance and turned out in large numbers, Yadav ensured that this support of minorities remained a quiet rather than a pronounced feature of his campaign.

All of this has meant that Yadav has today emerged as probably the INDIA bloc’s most important constituent. UP is what made the difference between the BJP having a majority on its own and shrinking below 250 seats. It marked the most important blow to both Modi and Yogi’s political reputation. And it has opened space for political competition and social churn ahead of the 2027 state election, in which Yadav will be a more formidable challenger than in the past.

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