Uttar Pradesh: Is Akhilesh Yadav’s brimming confidence misplaced?

The UP CM’s confidence is in sharp contrast to the public narrative over the ongoing Samajwadi feud, but Akhilesh insists that he and his campaign team “have everything under control” before UP polls

Photo by Ashok Dutta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Ashok Dutta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Biswajeet Banerjee

Early last week Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav told this reporter that Samajwadi Party would regain power in Uttar Pradesh. “Just wait and watch. We have everything under control,” he said.

His confidence was in sharp contrast to the public narrative after he had unfurled a banner of revolt against his father Mulayam Singh Yadav by getting himself elected as national president of the party and following attempts by both the factions of Samajwadi Party to claim the party’s election symbol—the ‘bicycle’.

Pundits were convinced that Samajwadi Party had lost the plot. That it was the chief minister’s uncle Shivpal Yadav who controlled the party organisation and purse strings; that Akhilesh Yadav had moved in too late to assert his independence and that the Election Commission would take the safe way out and freeze the symbol.

Sensing the scepticism in this correspondent, the chief minister said by way of a parting shot, “I have my ears to the ground. My feedback is Samajwadi Party is coming back to power. We are getting support from all sections of society.”

Indeed, Akhilesh Yadav did appear to have overcome whatever anti-incumbency feelings there were. BJP’s state general secretary Vijay Bahadur Pathak said candidly that BJP was up against Akhilesh Yadav’s popular image.

“I have my ears to the ground. My feedback is Samajwadi Party is coming back to power. We are getting support from all sections of society.”
Akhilesh Yadav

Akhilesh Yadav also seemed to be aware public perception and public opinion had changed in the last few months, possibly largely because of a communication campaign run by Harvard University Professor Steve Jarding, who had been drafted to help the CM’s team to strategise.

Photo by Kamal Kishore/ PTI
Photo by Kamal Kishore/ PTI
Shivpal Yadav, Amar Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav at a press conference in Delhi on January 8. Mulayam’s Samajwadi party faction is locked in battle with Akhilesh Yadav’s faction to claim the party’s ‘cycle’ election symbol

Professor Jarding was introduced to Akhilesh Yadav by one of his students Advait Vikram Singh, and has been working with the Samajwadi Party since August last year, when the team acknowledges that he has helped in building Akhilesh’s image brick by brick. His 100 plus team is working only in the rural areas. And by his own admission he has “human or technological reach” in over 98% of the households in rural UP.

Jarding, a campaign manager and political consultant for the Democratic Party in the US, teaches public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School. He has been a campaigner, manager, political consultant and strategist since 1980. His clients included Hillary Clinton, former US vice-president Al Gore and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

  • Around 1,00,000 volunteers have been recruited as Samajwadi Vikas Yojana Pramukhs who educate villagers about government’s welfare schemes like Samajwadi Pension Yojana, 102/108 Ambulance Yojana and Kaamdhenu Yojana. These Pramukhs act as conduit between villagers and government agencies
  • If any villager has a complaint the Pramukhs pass it on to the district administration and once these are redressed or attended to, villagers are told that Akhilesh Yadav had got it done. They also call on villagers to educate them about on-going schemes. This way they remind villagers about the projects Samajwadi Party Government has launched
  • The first thing Jarding did was to redesign the publicity campaign for the SP government's welfare schemes. Actress Vidya Balan was roped in to endorse Samajwadi Pension Yojana and later Nawazuddin Siddique to promote Samajwadi farmer insurance scheme
  • With family feud in Samajwadi Party rearing its head, Jarding’s suggestion to Akhilesh Yadav was to never speak ill about his family in public but always talk about positive things when talking about family
  • On the suggestion of Jarding Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has written letters to all the beneficiaries of Government schemes. Officials in the Chief Minister’s Office claim Akhilesh Yadav has written letters to 55 lakh families who are getting Samajwadi Pension.

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