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Uttar Pradesh Election 2017: A loss would leave Akhilesh Yadav in a political tailspin

A victory for Samajwadi Party in the election would be vindication of Akhilesh Yadav. A loss would unleash many dark possibilities and critical challenges for him. It was a rather stormy entry into the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections for Akhilesh.

He was still fighting a serious battle on many fronts when the election commission sounded the poll bugle. The in-house challengers had to be neutralised and many conspiracies to destabilise him needed to be smothered. The Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav had to be eased out with every ounce of his dignity intact. He had landed in a direct, no-holds-barred conflict with the party’s powerful nuts and bolts man Shivpal Yadav. The party was on the brink of a vertical split before the other side gave up the fight.

 Uttar Pradesh Election 2017: A loss would leave Akhilesh Yadav in a political tailspin

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav during a rally in Mirzapur. PTI

The possibility of a split drove him into a hurried alliance with the Congress. According to poll observers and party insiders, it was an unwise alliance where the Samajwadi Party conceded a quarter of the 403 seats in the state to a party with negligible presence on the ground. It led to heartburn and mini revolts within party ranks and it didn’t help that party elders were reluctant to offering the soothing touch.

Under him the party had made a definitive generational shift but the new leadership had to find wider acceptance among the party’s followers and sympathisers. Father Mulayam, the party’s founder, was the natural leader of a social coalition that stood him in good stead all through his active political career. Akhilesh had to prove he was a genuine claimant to that position. He not only had to woo the Yadav’s, the traditional backers of the Samajwadi Party, but also the other caste groupings that aligned well with party. With election so close, time was too short for him.

Akhilesh’s biggest challenge, however, was to find a counter to the resurgent BJP. The general election of 2014 was a shocker. The saffron surge under Narendra Modi, had disturbed the traditional poll arithmetic in the state. The accepted caste equations in relation to voting behaviour had gone for a toss. The fact that the party had secured a whopping 43 percent of the vote share called for drastic rethink on poll strategy from others, particularly the ruling Samajwadi Party which had to deal with the incumbency factor too. Akhilesh shifted the debate to performance with some deliberateness. It was risky but Modi had forced a change in the poll idiom and language; others had no other option but to follow.

A victory for Akhilesh would thus be a vindication of whatever moves, political or otherwise, he has made in the recent months. A loss would mean going back to the drawing board and starting from the scratch. Lost constituencies may not be easy to get back. It would be a long, arduous task to be back as a political force.

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Updated Date: Mar 09, 2017 12:23:01 IST