Wary Akhilesh seeks a development mask

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Reinventing The SP wants to put its house in order and rid itself of tainted leaders in its fold before the Assembly election in 2017, Photo: Pramod Singh Adhikari
Reinventing The SP wants to put its house in order and rid itself of tainted leaders in its fold before the Assembly election in 2017, Photo: Pramod Singh Adhikari

Sensing the gravity of the upcoming political challenges, the Samjawadi Party in Uttar Pradesh has decided to revive its somnolent ranks and inculcate a sense of “positive participation” in the party’s rank and file.

Identifying the black sheep who cohabited with political adversaries during the Lok Sabha poll in one aspect of the strategy that is being unfolded with care by a wary Akhilesh Yadav. The process of selecting candidates ahead of the Assembly polls in 2017 is also high on the SP’s agenda, party sources say.

“It is high time we had something akin to a perestroika in the state, and now is the time to kickstart it,” says a senior leader as he discloses that under the first phase of the party’s plan, observers have been dispatched to 26 districts in eastern UP. They have been told to identify clean and untainted profiles among prospective candidates.

During the three-day-long meeting of the national executive of the party in early October, SP general secretary Ramgopal Yadav had vowed to identify the black sheep within the ranks and expel them from the party. This event also helped Akhilesh Yadav a great deal to emerge out of the shadow of his father and uncles and take tough decisions independently.

The recent Assembly poll results in Haryana and Maharashtra have unnerved the SP. In both the states, the people rejected feudal political dynasties that wielded influence in society more by terrorising the people rather than working for them. The SP, too, is no different. It is a family enterprise of the Yadav clan.

The party seems to have drawn a clear lesson from the poll results in the two states: put the house in order and get rid of the tainted leaders before it is too late.“So, the party in engaging in this exercise well ahead of the state Assembly polls,” says Ashok Mishra, former state secretary of the CPI.

“This exercise is the result of a marathon process of consultation after the recent Parliament election, investigating as to why, despite its best efforts, the Akhilesh Yadav government has failed to make a mark on the common man. Earlier, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh blamed the bureaucracy for the lethargy and poor delivery of the development schemes. Over 1,500 ias and state public service commission officers were reshuffled. But it made no difference. Deeper investigations revealed that the terror unleashed by SP cadres and leaders was the root cause of the alienation of the common man from the party,” says a minister closely involved in the process. “The party leadership is determined to fix this problem well before the next state Assembly election.”

After its worst poll debacle in the 2014 General Election, the ruling Samajwadi Party got a booster dose in the recent bypolls to 11 Assembly seats, where it wrested as many as nine seats from the BJP. The celebrations proved to be shortlived as the success of the BJP in Haryana and Maharashtra wiped out the feel-good factor.

Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has now focussed his attention on restructuring the party organisation by taking the necessary corrective measures. It began recently when the CM sacked 92 leaders in the party perceived to be responsible for damaging the image of the Samajwadi Party.

In a desperate attempt to activate his government, Akhilesh Yadav has taken a series of measures to improve the sagging morale. The chief minister is now monitoring the execution of the development schemes, particularly for the poor in rural areas — clearly a ripple effect of Narendra Modi’s style of functioning. Akhilesh Yadav does not want to be seen lagging behind and has asked his Cabinet colleagues and bureaucrats to come up with innovative ideas for reaching out to the masses.

“After completing half its term in office, the SP has nothing to showcase as its major achievement. Yet, the party is confident and in a combative mood and surging ahead as evident from its success in the recent bypolls to 11 assembly seats where it won nine seats. It is not without reason. Its political opponents are in no position to launch a big offensive against it. The base of the Congress is shrinking, the BSP is mysteriously silent and the BJP has failed to maintain the decisive edge it had got during the Parliament election,” says Ashutosh Mishra, professor of political science in Lucknow University.

Though Samajwadi Party leaders reject the idea that the sudden flurry of activity in the party organisation and the government has anything to do with the results of the Assembly polls in Haryana and Maharashtra, it has forced them to sit up and take stock of the situation before the next Assembly election due in March 2017.

“More heads will roll in the coming days and as many as 200 party leaders and workers will be shown the door along with over two dozen sitting MLAs of the party, who will be denied tickets for the next Assembly election,” says Virpal Singh Yadav, former Rajya Sabha MP and a confidant of Mulayam Singh Yadav. “For us, the process of contesting the 2017 Assembly elections has begun and we have little time for anything else.”

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