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Akhilesh’s Concerns

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Having witnessed the decline of the Congress and BSP in UP, the leaders of the Samajwadi Party had thought they were the only viable opposition to the BJP. The farmers’ movement promises to damage Yogi Adityanath’s bid to become Chief Minister again, and the SP is only too willing to take advantage. However, the energetic campaign launched by Priyanka Gandhi of the Congress – full of promises that challenge even AAP’s populism – has disturbed SP leader Akhilesh Yadav. He is now accusing the Congress of being in cahoots with the BJP to divide the opposition vote. This is particularly in the context of Muslim votes, which are required en bloc to tilt the scales. Any viable candidates put up by the Congress could divide this precious votebank.

That is not the end of Yadav’s worries. He has now expressed concern that the farm laws might be withdrawn by the Centre to pacify the farmers and, then, reintroduced after the elections. Matters could get really bad if farmers’ leaders, who have had a taste of unbridled power, decide to directly harvest the fruits of their agitation, instead of allowing politicians to benefit. (This would actually be an advance in democratic terms as it is the legislatures where policy decisions on laws should be worked out.)

And then, to further complicate the issue, there are the AIMIM, AAP and even the TMC entering the fray. AIMIM’s argument that even though they are the very necessary element in any anti-BJP front, the Muslims are never given proportionate representation in government is bound to find traction amongst the populace. This has led to the marginalisation of the community and denied it a share in mainstream politics. Radicalisation of the youth has been a direct result.

So, while the BJP vote bank might slide, that of the opposition may also get divided. The SP is, therefore, looking beyond its MY base and trying to woo non-Jatav Scheduled Castes, a section earlier held largely in contempt. It is a counter to the consolidation by the BJP of the non-Yadav OBCs in its favour. It must not be forgotten that the BJP’s thumping victory in the earlier assembly polls was also due to the smaller caste groups mobilising against the domination of the landowning castes such as the Yadavs and Jats in the rural areas. What shape things will take will become clearer as the polls approach, but it is certainly not a slam dunk for any party.