In March when the whole country was reeling under the COVID-19 shock, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav was rather optimistic about his future thanks to a palmist’s prediction, among other things. In the heartland of India, where religion and caste take centre stage and people believe in superstitions, the former chief minister of the most populous state of the country had expressed belief about his party sweeping the assembly elections in 2022.
Displaying the quirky traits of Indian political leaders, Akhilesh had said a palm reader had predicted years of power ahead for him, and the SP was going to rake in 350 seats from the total 403-seat state assembly. Such was the confidence of the young leader that he had predicted of the SP overperforming with at least 351 seats in 2022.
In a direct jibe at the ruling BJP, the SP chief also said that if the saffron party could win 300 seats in the previous election through lies, the SP can win a higher number of votes if it works hard for the next one.
Finally, the SP chief has come up with a new strategy that shows the foresight and clarity behoving of an effective leader of a competent party. Even though the UP elections are still a long way away, the SP chief has hinted that his party will not be part of any major alliance and shall fight the elections independently.
The party’s decision is in stark contrast to the one it had made in the 2017 elections of fighting alongside the Congress party. The SP is, however, open to alliances with smaller regional parties. Akhilesh’s decision follows the Congress’ abject failure in the neighbouring state of Bihar where it faced defeat even after being part of a Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance).
The Bihar poll results have reaffirmed the prowess of regional parties in certain states and UP’s parties seem to have taken a lesson from it. By acknowledging smaller regional parties and forming alliances with them, the SP will be projecting itself as a ‘big brother’ for the rest while promoting regionalism in the area. Its plan seems to be to sideline the national parties in its quest to regain power.
Another major development inside the SP is the repair of internal ties as it prepares to welcome back Akhilesh’s estranged uncle and Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia) leader Shivpal Yadav with the party promising representation to the PSPL in Akhilesh’s cabinet if it comes in power with the support of PSPL. The SP has also decided not to field a candidate for the Jaswantnagar seat as the seat has been contested by Shivpal for some years now.
Even though electoral politics can be particularly unpredictable, the SP’s decision of joining hands with the PSPL and other smaller political parties is likely to make it stronger. However, this decision could cause also infighting within SP’s ranks and may cost it the win that it so desperately wants in 2022.