Why Is Akhilesh Yadav Teaming up With Smaller Parties With Little Statewide Influence?

The significance of these parties can be understood by looking their region-wise performance. It is clear that whoever manages the UP polls seat by seat will win the election.

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On December 14, the Dharmapur grounds in Jaunpur district of eastern Uttar Pradesh were packed. The occasion was the sixth leg of the Vijay Rath Yatra being led by Akhilesh Yadav.

Waving flags of red, green, yellow and blue, supporters from smaller parties like the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), the Janwadi Socialist party (JSP), the Mahan Dal and others shouted Samajwadi Party’s new slogan, ‘Pichhdon ka inquilaab hoga, 22 mein badlaav hoga’. ‘The revolution of the backwards is coming, change is in the offing.’

Once it was his turn to speak, Akhilesh took the microphone and said, “Take a look for yourself. How many colours of flags are with us. You will not find so many colours of flags anywhere else. With all these colours, we have made a multi-coloured bouquet. Now, it has become a fight of multi-colour alliances verses the monochromatic mindset of saffron.”

Despite defeats in the 2017 and 2019 elections, when Akhilesh Yadav was in alliance with Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party respectively, he continues to remain upbeat about alliances – but with a twist.

This time, he is creating a formidable coalition by bringing together small caste-based parties from all over Uttar Pradesh. The strategy behind this seems to be that Akhilesh Yadav, since 2014, has been facing charges of being partisan against non-Yadav Other Backward Classes and is keen to shed this image. 

The Jaunpur Vijay Rath Yatra. Photo: By arrangement

The Axis My India survey for the 2017 assembly elections shows that 58% OBCs voted for Bharatiya Janata Party, while only 18% voted for SP. But the percentage of Yadavs who voted for SP was 80%.

Also read: Turnout at Akhilesh Yadav’s Rallies Will Boost SP. But Is It Enough to Dethrone BJP?

This is why Akhilesh is trying to ally with smaller parties representing non-Yadav OBCs who constitute 35% of the OBC population in Uttar Pradesh.

Ram Dutt Tripathi, former BBC correspondent, says, “The biggest challenge for Akhilesh to win this election is to break the image of SP being for Yadavs only.”

Agreeing with the idea, Brijesh Shukla, another veteran journalist says, “During the past governments of SP, a number of local leaders were accused of land grabbing, pooling of tenders and hooliganism. This time, he needs to assure voters that this will not be repeated. Yadavs will not be first among equals.” 

Some suggest that Akhilesh is using the successful formula perfected by his father Mulayam Singh Yadav by projecting himself as the leader of all backward communities. Preeti Choudhari, a professor of political science at Bhimrao Ambedkar Central University in Lucknow says this formula could pay dividends for Akhilesh.

“Mulayam Singh had a bouquet of leaders of various castes and they would take care of caste equations all over Uttar Pradesh. But later these caste leaders formed their own parties. Now Akhilesh is trying to align with them in hopes of getting the vote of their community,” Choudhari said.

Akhilesh Yadav greets supporters. Photo: Twitter/@yadavakhilesh

Percentage game

Akhilesh appears to now realise that elections cannot be won only with support from Muslims and Yadavs. To win, SP needs to increase its vote percentage in the state. When SP came to power in 2012 the party got a 29.7% vote share, while in the 2017 assembly elections the BJP got 40% vote share. Muslims and Yadavs, the core voters of SP lead it to a 24-25% vote share. Earlier the SP used to bank on the local candidates to get additional 7-8% of votes but now even that is not sufficient. 

Yashwant Deshmukh, the founder-director of the polling agency C Voter says, “Since 2014, the threshold in UP has changed. To win the election a party needs to get 40% vote share. There is a glass ceiling that is 30%, which SP has already reached. Akhilesh is unable to crack that. His idea is that his own base is 25%, and with these smaller parties his base may increase by 15% and he will form the government with 40%.”

However, there are views to the contrary as well which suggest that SP can form a government even with 36-38% vote share. 

Shamshad Khan, psephologist and managing director of the PEACS News Service says, “If SP gets 30% vote share, they may stop at 100-120 seats but with these parties coming together their vote share goes up to 34% and they will get 200 seats. And once they are able to reach 36% they can get around 250 seats because then BJP’s vote share of last time will also start coming down.

Family equations

The latest alliance partner of Akhilesh is his estranged uncle Shivpal Yadav who heads the Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party. On December 16, this year, after an hour-long meeting with Shivpal at his home, Akhilesh tweeted a photo with him and formally announced the alliance.

It was the sixth party with which Akhilesh had forged an alliance in a month’s time. Shivpal has significant influence in the Yadav heartland, including the districts of Etawah, Mainpuri, Kannauj and Firozabad.

Alok Joshi, former CNBC Awaaz head and senior journalist says, “ Shivpal has worked closely with Mulayam Singh Yadav for years. His tremendous organisational capabilities will definitely benefit SP.”

The strongest ally

 The RLD is the strongest ally of Akhilesh Yadav. It is a regional party of Western UP with a strong vote base in the Jat community. It was founded by Chaudhary Charan Singh, a Jat farmer leader and a former prime minister. His son Ajit Singh, an eight-time MP and the president of the party died during the second wave of COVID-19.

The party is at present led by his son Jayant Chaudhary. The Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013 were a major setback for the party. It sharply divided society and their traditional Jat vote shifted to the BJP. 

According to the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies’  studies, in 2014 and 2019 elections, BJP got 77% and 91% of Jat votes respectively, while it had got only 7% of these votes in the 2012 elections. The RLD could only win one seat in the 2017 assembly elections and secured only 1.78% votes in the state.

The party seems to have regained its ground in the region and the farmers’ movement has provided a ground to Jats and Muslims to come together. 

Also read: Not Just a Farmers’ Stir But a Democratic Pushback Against Uncaring Rule

Political analysts feel that a major chunk of Jats who shifted to BJP after the Muzaffarnagar riots can be back with the party.

According to estimates by political parties, there are about 14% of Jats in around 20 districts of Western UP. The RLD has a good influence in Baghpat, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Moradabad, Saharanpur and Shamli.

Akhilesh is thus banking on Jayant’s popularity in Western UP.

Sharat Pradhan, a senior journalist, says, “After two decades I can see the RLD in its old form as a formidable force in Western UP. RLD’s own vote base will certainly increase in the area.” 


The SBSP is a caste-based regional outfit representing the Rajbhar community and some other backward castes. It was founded in 2002 by its current president Om Prakash Rajbhar. According to estimates by political analysts, the Rajbhar community is around 4% in UP. They are mainly found in 70-80 seats of eastern UP in which, in 35 constituencies, there are 10,000-40,000 Rajbhar votes.

Om Prakash Rajbhar has influence in districts of Azamgarh, Ballia, Mau, Mirzapur and Ghazipur. The party was in alliance with BJP in the assembly elections of 2017, when it won four seats and got around six lakh votes (0.70%). This time they have formed an alliance with the Samajwadi Party. 

Sharat Pradhan says, “The Rajbhar community voted en bloc for BJP in 2017, but may shift this time to the SP alliance not just because of the SBSP, but also with strong Rajbhar leaders from BSP like Ram Achal Rajbhar and Sukhdev Rajbhar joining SP.” 

Also read: The UP Assembly Polls Are Almost Here – But Where Is BSP? 

Akhilesh Yadav and Om Prakash Rajbhar. Photo: By arrangement


JSP was founded and led by Sanjay Chauhan, a backward community leader from Ghazipur.

The party represents mainly the OBC Nonia community of Uttar Pradesh.

According to estimates by political analysts, they are around 2% Nonias in the state. In the 2019 Lok Sabha election the JSP chief fought on SP’s symbol and got around 5 lakh votes. To tackle JSP’s influence, BJP has allied with Prithiviraj Janshakti Party’s Chandan Singh Chauhan, who represents the same community.

Ravikant, assistant professor of Lucknow University says, “Sanjay Chauhan has good influence among Nonia community in Varanasi, Chandauli, Ghazipur and Bhadohi. It will certainly be beneficial for Akhilesh.”

Mahan Dal 

Mahan Dal is a caste-based regional party representing Maurya, Kushwaha and Shakya OBC communities. It is led by Keshav Dev Maurya and was founded in 2008.

According to estimates by political analysts, these communities are around 6%. Keshav Dev Maurya enjoys the support of backward castes in districts like Kasganj, Farrukhabad, Etah, Badaun and Fatehpur.

Hisam Siddique, a senior journalist, says, “In the last few elections a major chunk of these communities had supported BJP. But their alliance will help the SP. Keshav Dev Maurya has already taken out a Yatra in around a dozen districts to mobilise his community.” 

Also read: Can Farmers’ Movement Trump Older Political Equations in UP’s Crucial Western Region?

Apna Dal (Kamerawadi)

Originally, Apna Dal, a caste-based party representing the Kurmi OBC community mainly in eastern UP, was founded by Sonelal Patel, a Kurmi leader who was earlier in BSP.

After his death, a family feud led to his party diving into two factions. Sone Lal’s daughter Anupriya Patel who is at present a minister in the Union Cabinet leads the Apna Dal (S) and her mother Krishna Patel is the president of Apna Dal (Kamerawadi) supported by Anupriya’s younger sister, Pallavi Patel.

 According to political analysts, there are 5% Kurmi voters in UP and around 12% in Eastern UP. Kurmis hold sway over districts like Varanasi, Mirzapur, Bareilly and Ambedkar Nagar. The Kurmi community fully backed BJP in the last few elections in UP.

This time SP is trying to make inroads in the community by bringing Krishna Patel and Lalji Verma, a strong Kurmi leader and an erstwhile BSP MLA to its fold.

Also read: Dismantling the BJP’s Image as ‘Party of Subaltern Castes’ in Uttar Pradesh

Brijesh Shukla says, “Krishna Patel does not have much influence on Kurmi votes, like her daughter Anupriya Patel. But Lalji Verma will prove to be more of a vote catcher for the party.”

Small but significant

Although these parties do not have state-wide influence, their significance can be understood by looking their region wise performance. Experts suggest these parties separately do not create much impact but when they work in alliances, they can be a formidable force.

Shamshad Khan says, “If Sanjay Chauhan has an impact in 12 seats, Krishna Patel in 5 seats, Om Prakash Rajbhar in 10 seats, then this will be the BJP’s loss and the SP’s gain. On every seat, an average 3,75,000 people vote. If a party is able to shift 25,000 votes on a particular seat, it’s a big deal. Whoever manages this election seat by seat, will win the election.”