India Today

SP’S BROKEN RAMPARTS

- By Prashant Srivastava

we would win easily. I don’t know who gave him such reports. Bypolls are never easy to win,” says another leader.

J.P.S. Rathore, cabinet minister in the Yogi Adityanath government, who was looking after coordinati­on work in the bypolls, told india today, “Akhilesh was either overconfid­ent or had some sort of fear about campaignin­g. Nobody stopped him from doing so .... You can’t win by sitting at home.”

Another reason for the SP’s loss is that the party cadre was all at sea about the candidates, as they were finalised at the last moment. A senior SP functionar­y says that in Azamgarh, the local unit wanted Dimple Yadav, a former MP from Kannauj, to contest, but Akhilesh chose his cousin Dharmendra Yadav just before the final day of filing of nomination papers. Similarly, in Rampur, it was expected that someone from Azam Khan’s family would contest, but at the last moment Azam’s close aide Asim Raja got the ticket.

One SP functionar­y thinks that BSP candidate Shah Alam aka Guddu Jamali ruined the game for SP in Azamgarh by cutting into the Muslim votes. Jamali got 266,106 votes. Dharmendra Yadav also claimed that the BSP acted as the ‘B’ team of the BJP. “We fought an election within 12-14 days and got the support of the people.

I lost because of the state administra­tion and the BJP-BSP alliance…. By 2024, the people of Azamgarh will again choose the SP,” he said.

After the results, Akhilesh alleged that the results signified the “murder of democracy” under BJP rule. He tweeted: “This victory of the BJP is the victory of dishonesty, deceit, disregard for democracy and constituti­on, hooliganis­m by the administra­tion .... ” He offered no reason for his own absence from the campaign.

Ajay Kumar, political analyst and assistant professor at Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University in Lucknow, thinks it’s too early to say that the SP’s M-Y support base is irreparabl­y damaged, but adds that the results have raised such questions. He feels Akhilesh’s presence could have made all the difference, since a margin of 8,679 votes (in Azamgarh) is a narrow one for Lok Sabha polls. “I feel that despite the last minute selection, Dharmendra Yadav put up a good fight, but did not got the requisite support from the organisati­on and other top leaders. The SP needs to revisit its planning,” he says.

A SP veteran says, “We have lost in the 2017 assembly polls, the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and the 2022 assembly polls, but we are not ready to change our strategy.” He hinted that Akhilesh needs to change his core team and rebuild the organisati­on in every district.

The BJP surely has made a dent in the SP’s voter base by playing up its ‘developmen­t’ agenda and through better election management. Rathore points out how all the top state BJP leaders, including CM Yogi Adityanath, had addressed rallies in both constituen­cies. And BJP’s state organisati­on in-charge Sunil Bansal himself finalised the party’s ground strategy.

After the victory, Adityanath said, “The results of the byelection­s have given a signal about the outcome of the 2024 general election…. This victory is dedicated to all the hardworkin­g workers of the BJP.” He has very good reason to strike that triumphant note. ■

 ?? ANI ?? AFTER A BLOW SP chief Akhilesh Yadav with other leaders at the UP assembly on June 28
ANI AFTER A BLOW SP chief Akhilesh Yadav with other leaders at the UP assembly on June 28

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