Lucknow, Jan 14 Banished into political hibernation after a humiliating drubbing in the 2017 assembly elections, the Samajwadi Party (SP) of late seems to have got its voice and bearings back, led by its young leader and party chief, former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.
After a gap of almost 10 months, the Yadav scion has, in the past one month, not only been vocal in his criticism of the Yogi Adityanath government but has also established the "missing connect" with party cadres, specially the youth.
Reduced to 47 in a 403-member assembly, the SP has been struggling to remain centre-stage even as the 325-member-strong Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gallops from one electoral victory to another in the state. Akhilesh has been meeting party workers from every nook and corner of the state in the past few weeks for their feedback on what went wrong in the assembly polls where its numbers shrank from a high of 224.
He has also begun work on setting the caste combinations and demographic arithmetic right. Party insiders say that "bhaiyya-ji" -- as he is fondly called by his followers -- has decided to stop sulking at the electoral losses and rather garner strength to take on the BJP's might with renewed vigour. Yadav is said to have worked the wires with opposition party leaders in December 2017, trying to forge a front that could collectively counter the BJP's might.
This came as a surprise to many, mostly those who think Akhilesh Yadav is hesitant in getting off the high horse and getting into "realistic" politics of "some sense, camaraderie". Yadav not only initiated a process where opposition party leaders were brought on the same page against what the SP terms as manipulation of the electronic voting machines (EVMs) but has also authorised state party leaders to begin similar talks with like-minded leaders and legilsators in other parties.
"We are trying to take the help of all parties in exposing the BJP," state spokesman and former minister Rajendra Chowdhary said. Yadav himself has pointed out that he has "understood the game of the BJP" and would now "take on the electoral war of the BJP in their own style".
"Loha, lohe ko katta hai, ab hum Bhajpa ko usi ki bhasha mein samjhayenge (in a battle of equals, the BJP will be paid back in its own coin)", Yadav declared at a recent presser.
The SP is already admitting in its fold leaders of various castes like Nishads, Thakurs and Brahmins -- and a lot of Muslims have also returned to the party in the past few weeks. The party has so far distanced itself from the Congress and is focussing on rebuilding its cadre and boosting the morale of the crestfallen faithful. But is this enough? Opinion is divided.
While political observers see a shift in Akhilesh's attitude of late and view it as a welcome sign that he is trying to unite the opposition forces and simultaneously rebuild the SP, they feel a sustained campaign against the BJP government, both at the centre and the state, is the need of the hour. Reining in the lumpen cadre in the party is another challenge. At a recent press conference, his cadres took over the auditorium, forcing journalists to leave in a huff.
Akhilesh finally apologised for the unruly behaviour of his party cadres. Clearly, he realises the pitfalls of being caught in the old image of the party. Now, time will tell how much he can change his own party, make it battle ready and challenge the might of the so far unstoppable BJP.
(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at email@example.com)