POLITICS

The Unpopularity Of SP's MLAs Is Too Huge For Akhilesh Yadav To Overcome

130 incumbent legislators are re-contesting.

24/02/2017 12:51 PM IST | Updated 11/03/2017 7:34 AM IST
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PHULPUR -- For most of the 229 seats the Samajwadi Party holds in the UP assembly, voters accuse the MLAs of apathy, casteism and goondaism. The disgruntlement is of a magnitude too large to be overcome by the positive image of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, who comes across as a respected king with a hated army.

For now, the respect for the king isn't enough for people to overlook the acts of omission and commission by his soldiers. In Phulpur, a part of Allahabad district, a Samajwadi Party booth worker says he got a call from Lucknow asking if sitting party MLA Sayeed Ahmad should be given a ticket again.

"I said he shouldn't be. He did nothing, never came and showed his face again to the people," he says. The ticket was given to one Mansoor Alam.

Akhilesh comes across as a respected king with a hated army.

Alam is unlikely to win, not only because non-Yadav OBCs are backing the BJP in bulk, or because the BSP's Muslim candidate is dividing the votes in the community, but also because people across caste and religion are unhappy with Ahmad's performance.

Akhilesh is good but the MLA and others in the party are bad - that's a chorus you can hear across the state.

The SP has denied tickets to 99 of its sitting MLAs but is still making 130 incumbent legislators contest their seats. There are very few of these 130 seats where you can hear people praise the local MLA. Akhilesh is good but the MLA and others in the party are bad — that's the chorus you can hear across the state.

Akhilesh tried to overcome the problem by separating his image from the party and delivering centralised welfare and populism. Be it police control vehicles or laptops, all come from Lucknow, provided without discrimination between castes and communities. In the constituency, however, the Samajwadi Party organisation and legislator continue their old ways.

In Phulpur, a Congress booth worker speaks of the resentment that the Yadav domination of power at the district and block level has brewed amongst everyone else.

"Government contracts and tenders go to Yadavs or those close to the SP leaders. No FIR can be filed against a Yadav. They seem to get most government jobs," he says.

Rajput MLAs seem to be detested by voters a lot more than even the Yadav ones.

And when the MLA is a Thakur, people seem to complain more. Rajput MLAs seem to be detested by voters a lot more than even the Yadav ones.

In the Ramnagar seat in Barabanki, sitting MLA and minister Arvind Singh 'Gop' is so disliked for his 'Thakurvaad' that Yadavs and Muslims complained about it. Even a Thakur Congress worker agreed. "I am a Thakur and part of the SP-Congress alliance, but the truth is he has done nothing for the constituency except help a few Thakurs get rich," said the worker.

In the Gauriganj seat in Amethi parliamentary constituency, sitting MLA Rakesh Singh is again so hated for his 'Thakurvaad' that everybody else seemed to be ganging up against him.

Pawan Kumar / Reuters

People complain that the Samajwadi Party leaders and workers ensure all posts in local government, such as those in the block development committees, go to "their people", and their people are mostly Yadavs and Thakurs.

For all the BJP's attempts at communal polarisation, people across caste groups aren't complaining of any Muslim domination, only Yadav domination. It's not enough that Akhilesh has been able to de-link himself from his surname. On the ground, the party that people deal with on a day-to-day basis remains as casteist as ever, seeing the establishment of Yadav Raj as its purpose.

"Akhilesh is good but if we vote for him, will his MLA actually believe we voted for him? He will say you never voted for me and won't solve our problems."

In Kasganj in west UP, a group of Lodh men say there would be no use voting for Akhilesh, even though they had benefited from his government's myriad schemes. "Akhilesh is good but if we vote for him, will his MLA actually believe we voted for him? He will say you never voted for me and won't solve our problems."

What's their biggest problem? "Jobs and only jobs. It's not as if there are no jobs. There are Yadavs in our village who got government jobs. All it took for them was a phone call to Shivpal Yadav."

Employment is the answer you hear most often when you ask people why they wouldn't vote for Akhilesh despite the new road in the village, the laptop that has changed their children's lives or the police control vehicle that has reduced petty crime in the villages.

Akhilesh Yadav has been able to speak to voters in a new language UP hasn't heard before. But his inability to change his legislators and party workers has meant his communication has been one-way.

Dalits complain about land grab and violence that don't make up for the police and ambulance that come later. Non-Yadav OBCs say they were unable to approach their MLA. You can even find an odd Yadav or Muslim not voting for their SP candidate for the same reason.

Akhilesh has been able to speak to voters in a new language UP hasn't heard before. But his inability to change his legislators and party workers has meant his communication has been one-way. The people's voice didn't reach him.

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