The Samajwadi Party is facing an existential crisis in Uttar Pradesh. Political developments over the last fortnight have left the rank and files in the party in quandary as they feel the party has floundered on the Sonbhadra and Article 370 issues.
It all started with triple talaq bill that the Samajwadi Party opposed tooth and nail. But the abrogation of Article 370 and J&K Reorganisation Bill caught the party brass on the wrong foot. The party has failed to send a conciliatory message to its voters ahead of by-polls.
On the other hand, BSP took a clear stand on Article 370 as it unequivocally supported the government’s decision. Party supremo Mayawati her party was supporting the Bill as it believed the move “will bring prosperity in the region”. The BSP even cited B.R. Ambedkar in its decision to support repealing of Article 370, saying Ambedkar was against Article 370 and had refused to draft Article 370 in 1949.
Leader of BSP Legislature Party in Vidhan Sabha, Lalji Verma, said: “We are the followers of Dr Ambedkar and will follow the path shown by him. Ambedkar was the Law Minister of the country and was also Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee but he refused to draft Article 370 giving special status to J&K. Then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru asked N. Gopalaswami Iyengar, a member of the cabinet, to draft Article 370,” Verma said.
By evoking Ambedkar’s name, the BSP has been able to send the right message to its cadre and voters, which unfortunately Samajwadi Party failed to do. The SP leaders wanted the party brass to ‘go soft’ on the legislations passed by Parliament. They apprehend that the steps taken by SP leaders could antagonise urban voters.
Samajwadi Party national president Akhilesh Yadav gave two responses. On Monday, he said: “Any move that seeks to strengthen the integrity of India is to be welcomed. But in a democracy, decisions must be made by consensus, not by threat, force or fear.”
On Tuesday, while speaking on the bill in Lok Sabha he only questioned as to what good it would bring to the people of the border state.
“Why there is no clear stand from the party,” asks a senior party leader. “When some of the Congress leaders could come with a definite stand that they are in favour of Article 370, what is preventing Akhilesh Yadav from saying so. He has studied in Army school and knows the problems Army is facing in Kashmir. In his address he should have spoken about Army and its contribution. This would have sent a very positive message,” he said.
The fear in SP is as to what will happen in the coming bye-elections in 14 seats. After defeat in Lok Sabha, the party was shaken to the core by the resignations of a few senior leaders, including Rajya Sabha MP Neeraj Shekhar and party’s national treasurer Sanjay Seth.
There is apprehension that some other leaders, including Rajya Sabha members of Samajwadi Party, were set to resign and join the BJP. Akhilesh has failed to keep his flock together.
“The SP under Mulayam Singh Yadav was out of power in UP from 1995 to 2003, but there were no desertions and all prominent leaders chose to rally behind him. The situation now is in stark contrast. After three back-to-back poll debacles in 2014, 2017 and 2019, the party seems to be staring down the barrel. There seems to be no plan whatsoever to revive the party. I wonder what more Akhilesh and his advisers are waiting for,” the SP leader said.