A variant of the article was originally published in The Quint.
Image Credit: www.samajwadiparty.in
Samajwadi Party (SP) was established in 1992 when Mulayam Singh left Janta Dal and formed his regional party. Mulayam has been CM of the state thrice. First time in 1989 as a part of Janta Dal, then in 1993 in coalition with the BSP and finally in 2003 with the support of BSP rebels and other small parties.
In 2012, SP recorded its best ever performance and Mulayam nominated his son Akhilesh to the CM post to focus on national politics.
In 1989 VP Singh led Janata Dal got tremendous support of the backward classes due to the “mandal issue” and Mulayam became CM. In 1990 there was a split in the Janta Dal, Chandrashekar left along with his supporters to become PM backed by outside support of Congress. Mulayam left Janata Dal along with him and a new party Samajwadi Janata Party was formed. During these years, BSP also made inroads into the Dalit and poor / lower class vote bank. In 1992, Mulayam parted with Chandrasekhar, and formed his own party SP.
Performance of Samajwadi Party
Note : 1989 – Janata Dal, 1991 – Samajwadi Janata Party
Source: Election Commission
2012 – A stupendous victory
In 2012 SP recorded its best performance in UP bagging 224 seats, comfortable absolute majority. BSP suffered a crushing defeat. The growing influence of the upper caste in BSP made the Dalits shift towards SP which was in end the decisive factor.
SP won despite getting less votes from anchor segments – Yadavs and Muslims – SP won handsomely. Upper Caste, Kurmi and Dalits compensated for the loss of votes from this segment.
Voting Preference across Caste Categories
Source: CSDS Reports
SP Enjoys Strong MY Support
Yadavs and Muslims account for 28% of state population, have supported Samajwadi Party in state elections. Yadavs contributed on an average 66% and 43% of Muslims have voted for SP in the last four elections. The sum of these two support banks, make up 14-15% of vote share for SP. 2/3rd of SP voters include Yadavs, OBCs and Muslims.
Yadav and Muslim Voting for SP over the years
Source: CSDS Reports
5 issues that will determine whether SP will win
1. Development & Good Governance
GDP growth in nominal terms in the last two years of Mayawati’s term was lower than the all- India rate. During Akhilesh’s term, not only did the GDP grow, it was also more than the national average. There has been quite a visible development:
State GDP growth vs All India Growth
2. Law and Order
After Akhilesh came to power, law and order situation has deteriorated, this even SP’s hard-core supporters will agree. If we look at the table Murder, Rape, Kidnapping and Riots have increased as compared to the period of serious crime during Mayawati’s term. When 47% of MLAs have a criminal record, this is bound to happen. Other than that, firing a FIR too is a very difficult task in UP, this means that the crime rate could be higher.
|Rate of Crime||98||113|
3. Digital CM
The digital revolution, whereby the country’s youth is taking an interest in politics and policies, has forced politicians to understand the importance of social media. Netas are expanding their social media presence. Akhilesh is amongst the Top Digital CMs of India having understood the importance of this medium. He has around 8 million and 22 million Twitter and Facebook followers respectively. He has even launched an app called socialist Akhilesh where people can give feedback. About 65 percent of the Indian population is using social media these days.
4. Five CMs
UP is facing a big question, that is, who is the CM of the state? Is it Mulayam, or his brother Shivpal, or Ramgopal, or the Muslim leader Azam Khan or Akhilesh? Confusion regarding this is affecting govt. image in the public. Some seniors were not happy with Mulayam appointing his son as CM. They are running their own parallel govt. and often embarass the party (recent Quami Ekta Dal merger episode an example). Even Mulayam has publicly criticized Akhilesh govt. functioning. Joking people say that UP has “Panch CMs”.
All of this drama gives wrong message to voters. The lack of clarity in government affects the official work and policies as well. Akhilesh and Shivpal especially are in the centre of a Cold War, which can prove to be harmful for the party.
5. Caste Combination
SP’s traditional vote bank consists of Yadavs, OBC and the Muslim community. BJP managed to make a dent into OBC vote bank of SP in Lok Sabha. The Dalit votes which SP got in 2012 could go back to Mayawati. The Upper caste support which was pretty good in 2012 especially amongst Rajputs has gone in favour of BJP.
The biggest challenge will be to lock Muslim vote bank. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Muslim votes were divided among the SP, BSP and Congress. Muslims are still angry at the Akhilesh govt because of the Muzaffarnagar incident. To defeat BJP, Muslims can support BSP which looks a formidable opponent as of now.
Vote Bank of SP
Source: PB Analysis
The final outcome in the end would depend upon a myriad of factors. SP is clearly behind in the race as per initial opinion polls. Strategic alliances with Ajit Singh’s RLD and smaller parties like Peace Party can boost the chances of SP in UP. It’s inaction on the law and order front and negligence of OBCs other than Yadavs can prove to be its bane.