Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

Why the Vikas Rath Yatra is a do or die moment for Akhilesh Yadav?

Rashme Sehgal | November 3, 2016 2:45 pm Print
Akhilesh Yadav understands the challenges only too well which is why for him the success of the Vikas Rath Yatra is going to prove a turning point in the coming elections
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav

While UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has set out on his much-hyped Vikas Rath Yatra to win votes, the question being asked by political analysts is just how much the internecine feuding within the family will affect their vote bank in the coming UP elections.

Several analysts believe that the family spat in public has allowed Akhilesh to take charge of the party with the main loser being his uncle Shivpal Yadav. Distancing himself from his uncle and his baggage will allow Akhilesh to project himself as a leader who is determined to work for the `Vikas’ of the common man.

But there are other observers who believe that this public fight will cost the Samajwadi dearly. A senior Samajwadi party leader pointed out, `There is no doubt that Akhilesh has emerged stronger but the UP public is cautious voters. They know that Shivpal Yadav exercises a strong hold over the party machinery and this can move to Akhilesh’s disadvantage. So while the CM has hired the services of US-based political consultant Steve Jarding who along with his team members are working overtime to build up a team of dedicated Samajwadi volunteers who will work round-the-clock to address the problems being faced by villagers, BSP supremo Mayawati has scoffed at this scheme ’ as being too little too late’.

Mayawati has also pointed out that the chief minister had five years to attend to the day-to-day problems of villagers in his state which had created high levels of disgruntlement and that is why they are rushing through at the last minute with a flurry of schemes. Knowing the stakes are very high, the wily Mulayam Singh is now pushing for a mahagathbandan  (Grand alliance) and a lot of behind-the-scene negotiations have started in this respect. Feelers are being sent out to like-minded parties and leaders and as a first step, attempts are being made to ensure as many of their allies attend their silver jubilee celebrations starting November 5.

Mayawati is watching these developments closely especially since she believes the Samajwadi Party will pay the price of both incumbency and family feuding. The Congress has been reduced to being a marginal player in the state with its vote share in the 2014 elections having come down to 7.5 percent. It is expected to come down even further in 2017. She sees her main enemy is the coming elections as the BJP especially with prime minister Narendra Modi’s popularity having risen further following the surgical strikes against Pakistan.

Modi and BJP president Amit Shah’s successful rallies in various parts of UP have given a shot in the arms of the BJP whose vote share in the assembly elections has been going down because of polarized voting patterns. Mayawati has organized four major rallies in Agra, Azamgarh, Allahabad and Saharanpur. All four towns have a sizeable Dalit electorate. She is now trying to win over the Muslim base and also broad base her constituency to include Thakurs and Brahmins.

If she can win over the Muslim votes, she will directly hit the Samajwadi base which Akhilesh is trying to consolidate further. Both SP and BSP have a loyal voter base in the Yadavs, Muslim, and Dalit vote banks. The three groups form more than 40 per cent of UP’s population. The other advantage these two parties have is that they have strong charismatic leaders with which the public identify. The BJP has not identified any strong state leader so far.

Akhilesh Yadav understands the challenges only too well which is why for him the success of the Vikas Rath Yatra is going to prove a turning point in the coming elections.

Rashme Sehgal
The writer is a senior journalist
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