“Mile Mulayam, Kanshi Ram, Hawa Mein Udd Gaye Jai Shri Ram”, has been one of the most talked-about slogans in the history of UP politics. Naturally so, apart from its rhythmic coinage in the run up to the 1993 state assembly election, it also conveyed the changing social and political coalitions on the ground.
The 1993 elections in Uttar Pradesh were held in the backdrop of dismissal of the Kalyan Singh government, post the demolition of the Babri structure. Riding on the Ram movement wave, the BJP, which for the first time had come to power with absolute majority in Uttar Pradesh in June 1991, could only stay in government for for less than a year and half.
In terms of forming a broad social coalition, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Kanshiram joining hands was perhaps the best thing that could have happened to challenge the then rising might of the BJP. Yadav was the founder of the Samajwadi Party and Kanshiram of the Bahujan Samaj Party. The Muslim community was on the side of the coalition.
The result was interesting. Although the BJP went down from its 1991 tally of 221, with 177 seats, it was still the single-largest party. The SP won 109 and the BSP won 67 seats; even the combined tally of SP-BSP was less than that of the BJP.
However, the coalition formed a fragile government with some jod-tod. However, the government collapsed a year-and-half later with the infamous ‘Guest House Kaand’ in June 1995.
In the next assembly elections in 1996, Mulayam Singh Yadav experimented with yet another kind of social and political coalition by aligning with the Janata Dal, Tiwari Congress and the Ajit Singh-led Bharatiya Kisan Kam Kamgar Party (which was also supported by Mahendra Singh Tikait). The result threw a hung assembly. But the BJP once again emerged as the single largest party.
Thirty years after that popular slogan of the SP-BSP coalition, a generational shift has taken place in various political parties in Uttar Pradesh. With a positive Supreme Court verdict, the Ram temple construction in Ayodhya is in full swing and Jai Shri Ram is back in political discourse, albeit in a different way.
For the 2022 UP polls, Akhilesh Yadav has tried to form a broader social coalition by aligning with four forces – Ajit Singh’s son Jayant Chaudhry’s RLD, Krishna Patel’s Apna Dal (K), as also with OP Rajbhar’s SBSP. The fourth player in this scheme of things is Swami Prasad Maurya, a turncoat from BJP. Akhilesh Yadav wooed the Muslim community in such a way that the community’s support to SP in this election is almost total.
But Akhilesh’s challenge lay elsewhere. He didn’t appear to imbibe the many lessons from his own party’s electoral history and its alliances: in 1993, when Mulayam Singh Yadav made an alliance with Kanshiram’s BSP, he inadvertently gave the latter the prominence which BSP desperately required. By default, this paved the way for Mayawati to become chief minister of India’s most populous state.
The Samajwadi Party’s best performance was in 2012, when it won 224 seats, a full majority on its own. But even now, in the best of its times and results, it could gain a vote share of only 29.3 per cent.
In 2017, Akhilesh Yadav tried an alliance with the Congress, and gave them an unrealistic 105 seats. The coalition went to the elections with slogan`Kam Bolta Hai’ and `UP Ko Ye Saath Pasand Hai’. The result -- Samajwadi Party ended up with its worst ever performance, 47 seats. The Congress, which was non-existent on the ground, could win only seven seats by aligning with the SP.
In 2019, Akhilesh prevailed upon his father for the latter to swallow his pride and welcome Mayawati at his home turf in Mainpuri to cement the SP’s alliance with the BSP. The result—BSP’s tally in Lok Sabha went up from zero to 10. But the SP’s numbers remained at five. Apart from this, Akhilesh Yadav also had to suffer the ignominy of Samajwadi Party losing the election from Kannauj. His wife, Dimple Yadav, was the alliance’s candidate here.
In the current election, Akhilesh Yadav appears to be relying too much on two leaders on his side—Swami Prasad Maurya and OP Rajbhar—for OBC votes. The reality on the ground is that Maurya and Rajbhar are locked in a difficult electoral battle in their own constituencies, Fazilnagar and Zahurabad. Krishna Patel’s Apna Dal (K) is not showing any great prospects either. The default gainer out of this alliance could be Jayant Chaudhary. The RLD had only seat in the outgoing assembly. The party is likely to increase its tally.
The Samajwadi Party will surely gain a good number of seats, and increase its tally from 47. But will that gain be enough to catapult Akhilesh Yadav to power, close to the majority mark of 202? An unlikely possibility.
If he loses again this time, Yadav would have lost four elections in a row: 2014, 2017, 2019 and 2022. In three of these elections he changed allies, making the alliance partner benefit at his cost. A repeat scenario would make his supporters go in introspection.
As a driver in Lucknow who voted for the Samajwadi Party told this writer: “I voted for him [Akhilesh] simply because I believe that if he doesn’t come to power this time, it's all over for him for the next 10-15 years.”
Sanjay Singh is a seasoned journalist who has worked in all formats of media: print, tv, digital. He is known for his field reporting and political analysis and commentary, particularly those relating to UP elections, assembly or parliamentary.
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