Akhilesh shows who is the boss

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has come out on top in the power struggle within the Samajwadi Party with the Election Commission allotting the party’s symbol, the bicycle, to the faction led by him. There was not much doubt about his supremacy and overwhelming support within the party from the beginning of the feud between him and the old guard led by his father Mulayam Singh Yadav and uncle. He successfully turned the faction feud into a political struggle between the old and the new. With most of the party MLAs, MPs and state and district level leaders supporting him, it was easy for him to prove his claim to leadership to the EC. The defeated leaders are unlikely to offer any more resistance as whatever support they had is now gravitating to Akhilesh. His father also may not hold out for long.

But the bigger challenge for Akhilesh remains now. The state is already in the election mode and he has only a few weeks to convince the people that he is the modern face of the party and the face of the future. He is favourably placed because he has a clean image and a good record as chief minister. He has made a conscious effort to focus on good governance and development, especially in the last two years, and has tried to relate to the youth and their aspirations. The SP has a strong backward caste base and the Muslims, who have supported the party in past elections, will stay with it, now that a split has been averted. The proposed alliance with the Congress will give it added strength. The Congress support base among the forward castes should give the alliance wider appeal. The Rashtriya Lok Dal was expected to join the alliance but SP has announced that former Union minister Ajit Singh’s party will not. The SP hopes Congress will complement the appeal that Akhilesh has gained among all caste groups and age groups. There is some arithmetic in support of the alliance and a chemistry between the top leaders, and this is bound to make a difference.

Uttar Pradesh has a three-way electoral contest, with the BJP and Mayawati’s BSP being the other major contenders. The BSP was expecting to secure a part of the Muslim vote if there was a split in the SP. This may not happen now and the party will have to be content with its core constituency of Dalit votes. The BJP was also hoping to win a section of the backward caste votes in the event of a split in the SP. The state will now witness an engaging electoral battle among three strong contenders.

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