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Lucknow: After losing the by-elections in the Samajwadi Party (SP) bastions of Azamgarh and Rampur – which raised serious questions about the party’s future prospects in electoral politics – Akhilesh Yadav is planning a complete revamp.
Aggrieved by the defeat, the SP national president dissolved all party units and positions – except the state president.
Party insiders revealed that Yadav is planning to overhaul the organisational structure. The party’s top bosses believe that its weak organisational structure is responsible for successive defeats it has faced since 2014. The SP’s defeat in the March 2022 assembly election was its fourth consecutive defeat under Akhilesh’s leadership – beginning with the 2014 general elections.
Sources in the party revealed to The Wire that Yadav believes that contesting elections against the BJP in the 2024 general elections without a strong team will be futile. Therefore, Yadav is keen on overseeing a number of changes.
Sources in the party revealed that Akhilesh Yadav believes that contesting elections against the BJP in the 2024 general elections without a strong team will be futile. Therefore, he is keen on overseeing a number of changes.
First, a membership drive has been started. Yadav hopes that through this drive, new faces will be inducted into the party at the state and district levels.
Speculation suggests that the party might fire non-performers from their posts. Those who performed well in the 2022 assembly elections – when it won 111 seats in the 403-member house – will be given a larger role. Because Uttar Pradesh is driven by caste politics, the party will keep this arithmetic in mind when posts are reconstituted.
The party is also mulling over a new strategy for ticket distribution. Sources close to the party president say that from now, the SP will not invite applications from members to contest elections. This method created unrest within the party and many ticket seekers either left after they were denied tickets or did not work for the party in elections, they said.
Therefore, the SP high command has decided that it will declare candidates by assessing their performance and influence in the constituency.
Pooja Shukla, who switched to mainstream politics from student politics, also gave The Wire some insights into the SP’s strategy for the future. According to her, the party will give greater responsibilities to those who showed dedication in the recent assembly polls.
Shukla, who contested the Lucknow North assembly seat, said, “Those who did not perform well would be fired. The party will not sack everyone, but give them a chance to improve their performance.”
She says that the party has started working at the booth level. The reason behind its dismal performance is poor booth management, she said. Shukla also hinted that after the state convention, a new state president will be elected.
Pawan Pandey, a former lawmaker, also admitted that weak booth management was the problem. “In the past, we lost several assembly seats because of this. Many who were denied tickets did not work for the party during the elections,” he said.
Rajpal Kashyap, a former MLC, said that the SP is not going to give up before the BJP. “Our president aims to form a formidable organisation that will fight strongly against the communal forces,” he said.
However, these changes are not popular with everyone.
The dissolution of all party units has also upset the local leadership, as many of them will lose their influence if the party fires them from office.
A party leader said on the condition of anonymity that through these measures, Yadav is trying to put the onus of debacles on the shoulders of other leaders and workers. In the Rampur and Azamgarh elections, he avoided working on the ground, which proved costly to the party, the leader said.
However, the SP leaders also admit that their party lost its stronghold because of an incorrect assessment of the ground situation. Abdul Hafiz Gandhi says the debacle in Azamgarh and Rampur is a strategic failure. “The party president avoided visiting the constituencies to avert polarisation, but it did not work,” he said.
He said the party needs to induct new young faces ahead of the 2024 election. He said it is not easy for the SP to contest against the strong network of the BJP without having committed leaders at each level.