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The Times of India
The Times of India

Uttar Pradesh: Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav's ‘overconfidence’ led to bicycle crash in bypolls?

LUCKNOW: Did SP chief Akhilesh Yadav’s absence from active campaigning on ground for the Azamgarh and Rampur Lok Sabha bypolls led to the party's stunning defeat on the two seats? For the BJP, which won both the seats, the results will prove to be an advantage in the battle of perception in the run up to 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The results are sure to push the SP strategists back to the drawing board for the Lok Sabha polls in a big way. Questions over Akhilesh staying away from the ground campaigning in the two constituencies were raised in the run-up to the bypolls.

Initially, party leaders said the SP chief was scheduled to address public meetings in Azamgarh and Rampur during the last two days of campaigning. But that never happened. One argument that SP leaders put forward for Akhilesh’s absence was that though BSP fielded a candidate in Azamgarh, party supremo Mayawati, too, did not address rallies to seek votes for him. Political observers say such comparisons hold no ground like SP, Azamgarh has never been BSP ‘stronghold’, nor Mayawati ever got elected from the constituency, like Akhilesh in 2019 and Mulayam in 2014.

So what kept Akhilesh away from campaigning in Azamgarh and Rampur, particularly when they were more prestigious seats? Some political observers see it as ‘overconfidence’ on the part of SP leadership. Perhaps the SP strategists were confident that MY (Muslim-Yadav) factor in Yadav-dominated Azamgarh will see the party through. The results prove that the MY factor actually turned out to be the Modi-Yogi factor at play and took SP by surprise, says an observer.

Some analysts also say that the SP chief had a better ear to the ground than the party candidates in the two constituencies and was possibly aware that SP’s defeat was likely and chose to stay away from campaigning. Some argue that in 2018 bypolls also, Akhilesh had not campaigned in Gorakhpur and Phoolpur, but SP had won both the seats. Akhilesh reached the party office at 10am on Sunday and kept a close watch on the bypoll results. He left around 2pm – two hours before the Azamgarh result was formally announced. The party headquarters, too, wore a deserted look.

In Rampur, which has the highest concentration of Muslim votes in UP, SP leadership left the elections entirely on party veteran and SP’s tallest Muslim leader Azam Khan. Right from the choice of candidate to the nature of the party campaign, Azam was asked to take the call. Despite health issues, Azam actively led the campaign and addressed dozens of rallies making emotional appeals to the people to avenge his two years of incarceration and humiliation at the hands of BJP. But nothing worked. BJP’s Ghanshyam Lodhi defeated Azam’s aide Asim Raja. Some optimistic political observers see a ‘silver lining’ for the SP chief. “The defeat has left no scope for Azam to accuse Akhilesh of not giving him his due in terms of his seniority” an observer said.

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