India

The challenges that Akhilesh faces after Mulayam’s death

Besides handling the task of retaining the family pocket borough Mainpuri that has fallen vacant after his father’s death, the SP chief has to keep the party cadre and the Yadav family united

Lucknow,UPDATED: Oct 17, 2022 19:51 IST

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav in Barabanki; (Photo: Yasir Iqbal)

By Prashant Srivastava: The death of former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and Samajwadi Party (SP) patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav has left a huge void in Indian politics but it has also thrown many challenges for his son and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav. The SP – the principal opposition party in Uttar Pradesh – has not had a good show in the past several polls. Now, after Mulayam’s death, challenges seem to increase for the party.

The first litmus test for Akhilesh will come in the form of the by-election to the Mainpuri parliamentary seat that has fallen vacant due to Mulayam’s demise. After wresting Azamgarh and Rampur Lok Sabha constituencies from the SP in the June bypolls, the BJP is now eyeing the latter’s last stronghold. The saffron party has been in election mode with vigorous efforts to woo the voters. Political observers have started betting that the BJP may extend support to Akhilesh’s sulking uncle Shivpal Yadav, who had fallen out with Akhilesh and formed his own party, if he decides to contest in Mainpuri instead of fielding a party candidate. In both these scenarios, the SP has to give a strong candidate in Mainpuri.

The Mainpuri seat has always been an SP bastion. It was from here that Mulayam was first elected as an MP in 1996 and then he successfully contested the seat three more times – in 2004, 2009 and 2019. In the 2014 bypoll, his grandnephew, Tej Pratap Yadav, had won. Now, the party has to start looking for a candidate who can retain the family pocket borough. According to party sources, three names are being considered from the Yadav clan as of now: Tej Pratap besides Dimple Yadav and Dharmendra Yadav. While Dimple, former MP and wife of Akhilesh, is currently not a member of any house of parliament, Dharmendra, a cousin of Akhilesh and a former MP, unsuccessfully contested the recent Azamgarh byelection.

A party functionary claims that there is also a possibility of a candidate from outside the family. “If we field a non-Yadav OBC – for example, a candidate from Shakya or Lodh community – we will be able to send out a message among that caste group,” he says, adding, “If Chachaji (Shivpal) and Bhaiya (Akhilesh) patch up again, things could easily get resolved. And the BJP won’t be able to stop us from winning here.”

Meanwhile, the BJP is curious about Shivpal’s next move. Party insiders do not rule out the possibility of backing Shivpal to send out a larger message in the entire Yadav belt across Etawah, Mainpuri, Kannauj, Badaun, Firozabad and Farrukhabad. If the Shivpal option won’t work, then the party may consider fielding a non-Yadav OBC on this seat.

The SP has already lost Kannauj and Azamgarh – the two other bastions which Mulayam had represented in the Lok Sabha – to the BJP. The SP won only five of 80 Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Political experts believe that Akhilesh is now entrusted with a huge political legacy left behind by his father to take forward. Dr Shilp Shikha Singh, political analyst and assistant professor at Lucknow’s Giri Institute of Development Studies, thinks that the main challenge in front of Akhilesh is to unite the cadres as well as the whole Yadav clan. She feels that Shivpal could disturb the SP’s chances in the whole Mainpuri-Etawah belt in the coming polls. “Akhilesh should emulate his father’s work style and unite the old and young guards. Apart from this, he should increase his outreach among non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav Dalits.”

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