Hubris has killed the Samajwadi party in its political strongholds

Overconfidence appears to have killed the Samajwadi party in its two political strongholds – Rampur and Azamgarh – where it lost miserably to the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in crucial polls at the two important Lok Sabha seats in the Uttar Pradesh.

What led to this disaster for the party that had managed to recover from its humiliating defeat in 2017, when it won just 46 seats in the 403-member UP house, to a respectable level of 111 (125 with the allies) in 2022?

Obviously, it seems to be SP’s “one-man show” that got things so far in the bypolls. With the defeat, the Samajwadi party could have created some kind of history. It is unusual for parties in power to score victories in partial polls when the opposition gains the upper hand. Indeed, this bypoll result is a bigger blow for the SP.

On the other hand, it adds a feather to the ruling BJP’s cap and, most notably, brings new laurels to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who proclaimed the two victories a “victory” for his “good governance”. Some have called the referendum victories for Adityanath’s high-profile “development” policy.

The Samajwadi party’s debacle in these two parliamentary constituencies becomes more significant as it was the first time that the party’s deadly Muslim-Yadav vote combination failed in its home turf. While Rampur has a 60% Muslim population, the Muslim-Yadav combination has traditionally dominated the political territory of Azamgarh.

The two Lok Sabha seats were previously held by SP stalwarts Akhilesh Yadav and Azam Khan. They were rocked by the devastating defeat that followed the announcement of the polling result on Sunday. Akhilesh won the 2019 Lok Sabha election in Azamgarh, while Azam Khan won the Rampur seat in direct competition with the BJP. The by-elections followed the decision of the two SP leaders to opt for their respective seats in the National Assembly after the 2022 elections in Vidhan Sabha.

Read | Killing democracy under BJP rule, says Akhilesh Yadav on Uttar Pradesh indirect poll results

In Rampur, perhaps Azam Khan’s overconfidence brought the party to the most unexpected defeat. Azam Khan was more than confident of securing victory for anyone he fielded. The source of his confidence was his influence in the constituency and the wave of sympathy he expected for himself for his 27-month imprisonment in prison after the Yogi Adityanath government launched more than 80 criminal cases against him.

Azam Khan lined up his close confidant Aseem Raza in hopes he would sail easily but received the biggest shock of his life when the results came out. BJP’s Ghanshyam Singh Lodhi managed to win by a relatively high margin of 42,200 votes. The strong polarization and substantial consolidation of Hindu votes in favor of Lodhi were crucial reasons for the defeat of the candidate of Azam Khan, who could not obtain any non-Muslim support. The population of Yadav in Rampur is relatively insignificant. Therefore, the BJP’s skillful selection of a candidate from the backward community of Lodhi won the support of all non-Yadav OBCs.

A restless Azam Khan can blame it all on the ruling dispensation as he alleged manipulation in the voting process. Yet the truth is that his political empire is crumbling before his eyes.

As for Azamgarh, Akhilesh Yadav had resigned from where his father Mulayam Singh Yadav had won the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. He therefore could not even remotely imagine the defeat of his candidate, his first cousin, Dharmendra Yadav. Azamgarh ran alongside the Yadav clan in several elections, and even in the last National Assembly election in March 2022, it was one of the very few districts where the SP won each and every one hands down. of its 10 Vidhan Sabha seats.

According to SP insiders, Akhilesh chose not to campaign in either Azamgarh or Rampur simply because he felt it was “below his dignity” to campaign for proxy polls where top BJP leaders didn’t want to go. However, Yogi Adityanath eventually went to campaign there, but even that did not make Akhilesh dive to ground zero. Insiders also admit that getting bogged down in his ego has been a frequent problem with the SP leader since he lost the 2017 election. gone from 46 (in 2017) to 111 (in 2022), it is because his sycophants have taken him away from the reality on the ground.

Akhilesh didn’t even bother to assess the real position in Azamgarh and made a big mistake in fielding his uncle’s son, who was previously an MP for Badaun and had no past connection with Azamgarh. The earlier plan was to line up his wife, Dimple Yadav, but he kept her out for some reason. “If Dimple had contested the election, the Muslim vote in Azamgarh would not have been divided,” a party insider said on condition of anonymity.

The BJP’s choice to field Dinesh Lal Yadav alias ‘Nirhua’ was strategic. And what served their purpose was the decision of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) Mayawati supremo to field a well-known Muslim, Shah Alam aka “Guddu Jamali” from the region. This not only made it a triangular competition, but also caused the Muslim vote to split, which ultimately secured a clear victory for the BJP candidate.

Jamali has a fascinating political past. He had left the BSP in November 2021 and applied for an SP ticket to contest the Mubarakpur assembly seat in Azamgarh in March 2022. But Akhilesh did not consider it suitable enough, so Jamali switched loyalties to AIMIM of Asaduddin Owasi, only to lose the election. . Mayawati picked him for the Azamgarh Lok Sabha as soon as the bypolls were announced.

Undoubtedly, Akhilesh has also remained blissfully unaware of the seemingly underhanded deals that have been struck between the BSP and the BJP. Sitting in his ivory tower, he seemed content to tweet and make statements on social media. Although he does not care to learn from his mistakes in the Vidhan Sabha elections in March 2022, when he could have done better than he did, the SP leader failed to learn rise to the occasion and take the bull by the horns.

If it is his overconfidence, it is also apparently his habit of letting himself be surrounded by “yes men” which propelled the party towards such a disaster, from which it may not be easy to bounce back – at least before the much more crucial elections of 2024, which will determine the political fate of the country.