Mulayam Chides Akhilesh: 5 Factors that Will Seal SP’s Fate in UP
Fissures within the Samajwadi Party (SP) were out in the open during Independence Day celebrations in Lucknow. Mulayam Singh, to utter surprise of all, openly criticised his son Akhilesh’s government, even complaining that the CM doesn’t listen to him. He warned that if Shivpal leaves the party, it will have disastrous consequences for the party’s prospects in next year’s elections. There are reports that Quami Ekta Dal may merge again with SP, thus intensifying the Akhilesh-Shivpal cold war.
Stupendous Victory in 2012
In 2012, the Samajwadi Party had recorded its best performance, securing a comfortable majority in UP, bagging 224 seats. Mulayam nominated his son Akhilesh to the CM post and decided to focus on national politics. BSP, on the other hand suffered a crushing defeat. The growing influence of the upper caste in BSP made the dalits shift towards SP, which was in the end a decisive factor. SP won despite getting less votes from anchor segments, Yadavs and Muslims (-6% each). Upper Caste, Jatavs and Other Dalits compensated for the loss of votes from these segments.
SP Enjoys Strong MY Support
Yadavs and Muslims account for approximately 30% of state population, and have historically supported Samajwadi Party in state elections. 66% of Yadavs and 43% of Muslims have voted for SP in the last five elections. The sum of these two support banks, provide SP with 14-15% vote share.
It’s the support base of M-Y and the OBCs that gives Akhilesh hopes of making a comeback in UP in 2017. Five factors which will seal SP’s fate in the heartland state are enumerated below:
1) Development & Good Governance
GDP growth in nominal terms in the last two years of Mayawati’s term was lower than the all-India rate. During Akhilesh’s term, not only did the GDP grow, it was also more than the national average. There has been quite a visible development, however, the problem is that people are not aware about a number of govt-led programs.
Some of the accomplishments of Akhilesh’s govt include completion of the Delhi- Agra Expressway which has reduced the travel time by 2 hours. Work has begun on the Lucknow Metro project (Rs. 10, 500 crore) and the first phase will be completed in 2016. Work on Agra-Lucknow expressway has begun which will reduce the 6-hour journey to 3.5 hours. Schemes providing free laptops to students (1.5 million) and unemployment allowance (1,000 per month) can also be counted as among SP govt’s feats. Four-lane roads connecting all district headquarters is also being envisaged.
2) Law and Order
After Akhilesh came to power, law and order situation has deteriorated with an increase in crime rate per lakh of population.Instances of murder, rape, kidnapping and riots have increased as compared to Mayawati’s term.It is however not surprising when 47% of MLAs in the assembly have a criminal record.
3) Caste Combination
SP’s traditional vote bank consists of Yadavs, OBC and the Muslim community (2/3rd of their total vote base). BJP managed to make a dent into OBC vote bank of SP in Lok Sabha. The Dalit votes which SP got in 2012 could go back to Mayawati. The Upper caste support which was pretty good in 2012 especially amongst Rajputs has gone in favour of BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
The biggest challenge will be wooing the Muslims since they comprise a crucial vote bank. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the community votes were divided among SP, BSP and Congress. Section of Muslims are still angry at the Akhilesh govt. because of Muzaffarnagar riots and Dadri incident has added fuel to the fire. To defeat BJP, Muslims can support BSP and / or Congress if it appears as the most formidable opponent.
4) Five CMs – Internal Factionalism
In the power corridors of UP, often a question is asked, who is the CM of the state? Is it Mulayam, or his brother Shivpal, or Ram Gopal, or the Muslim leader Azam Khan or Akhilesh?
Such a perception is tarnishing the public image of the government. Some party veterans were not happy with Mulayam appointing his son as CM and they are often deemed as running their own parallel govt. and often cause embarrassment.
Jokingly people say that UP has “Panch CMs”. All of this drama gives wrong message to voters. The lack of clarity affects the official work and implementation of policies as well.
5) Digital CM & Social Media Initiatives
The digital revolution, whereby the country’s youth is taking an interest in politics and policies, has forced politicians to understand the importance of social media. Netas are expanding their social media presence. Akhilesh (portrayed as Digital CM by supporters) has around 8 million and 22 million Twitter and Facebook followers respectively.
He has even launched an app called socialist Akhilesh where people can give feedback. About 65 percent of the Indian population is using social media these days. 25% of UP seats have decent social media impact being urban / semi-urban category. While Mayawati is behind Akhilesh on this front, BJP has a much bigger social media army.
To sum up, though SP is behind BJP in the race, Akhilesh leads popularity ratings for the most preferred CM (ABP-Cicero opinion poll). Strategic alliances with Ajit Singh’s RLD and smaller parties like Peace Party can boost the chances of SP in UP. Can Akhilesh make a comeback riding on his development work and clean image or will his government’s inaction on the law and order front, coupled with negligence of OBCs prove to be SP’s bane, only time will tell.
Tiwari is an independent political commentator and can be reached at @politicalbaaba).