New Delhi: Three
young leaders put their heart and soul in the campaign in Uttar
Pradesh, but it was Akhilesh Yadav who walked away with the
honours. Yadav’s efforts helped the Samajwadi Party emerge
triumphant, negating the efforts of Congress general secretary
Rahul Gandhi and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) leader Jayant Chaudhary.
The three young leaders have a lot in common. They are inheritors
of political legacies and are MPs from Uttar Pradesh. But while
Gandhi and Chaudhary fought as allies, Akhilesh’s party contested
the 403 seats on its own.
Akhilesh, 38, who despite his father’s antipathy to English was
educated to Australia, reached out to people at the grassroots
through road shows across the state and sought to convey a message
of being accessibile and reachable.
Party leaders said Akhilesh reshaped SP’s thinking by going beyond
caste mobilisation and sought to connect its campaign to the
aspirations of the youth in the country’s most populous state,
which lags behind in human development parameters.
They said Akhilesh prevailed upon the leadership to shed its image
as a party opposed to computers and English language. The party
has promised laptops to students who clear Class 12 from
Son of SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, Akhilesh attempted to wash
off the taint of his party’s association with criminal elements
during its rule in the state. He vetoed induction of
don-politician D.P. Yadav.
As trends showed the party was coming up trumps, Akhilesh said he
was not in the race for chief minister’s post.
“The party feels that the responsibility should go to Netaji,” he
said, referring to party leader and former chief minister Mulayam
The SP had advantage over the Congress as it was the main
opposition in the state, having secured around 25 percent votes in
the 2007 polls. It also had a clear chief ministerial candidate in
Mulayam Singh Yadav. The party appears poised to get full majority
in the 403-member Uttar Pradesh assembly.
Though Gandhi, 41, sought to neutralise the weaknesses of his
party with a high-pitched campaign, the results for the party were
far below its expectations.
Gandhi, MP from Amethi, addressed over 200 rallies in the campaign
and traversed nearly 3,500 km during his five Jan Sampark Yatras
(public contact programmes) that started last November. He held
road shows in cities and covered about 10,700 km between Jan 28
and Feb 29.
Gandhi whose father, grandmother and great grandfather were prime
ministers of the country, told the voters that his mission was not
restricted to elections but was about changing Uttar Pradesh and
bringing the party back to power, where it last ruled 22 years
The Congress had a paltry vote share of about eight percent in
2007 polls and had won just 22 seats in the assembly.
The party has lost all the seats in Rae Bareli, the Lok Sabha
constituency of party chief and Rahul’s mother Sonia Gandhi, while
in Rahul’s own Amethi Lok Sabha constituency, the Congress is
trailing in two seats.
The Congress is poised to finish fourth in the assembly polls,
with a marginal improvement in its previous tally.
After the verdict, Rahul said he accepts responsibility for the
party’s poor showing. “The Congress’ fundamentals were weak and
organisationally we were not where we should be and the general
mood was for the Samajwadi Party.”
Unlike Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav, Jayant Chaudhary, 33, contested
the assembly polls as a party nominee.
Chaudhary, whose father is a union minister and grandfather Charan
Singh was a former prime minister, raised issues of land
acquisition, corruption and injustice to farmers during his
The RLD is not poised to make any significant gains from its tally
of 10 in 2007 polls.
(Prashant Sood can be contacted at email@example.com)