Uttar Pradesh has a prominent place in the politics of India, with 403 legislators and 80 parliamentarians coming from here. The ruling party’s one fourth Lok Sabha strength is contributed by UP. The state has been responsible for taking candidates from Chief Minister to Prime Minister., acting as a kingmaker. With such importance of the state, the players who are contesting also become tantamount. Hence contesting UP polls becomes the sole aim of the big Parties.The political scene has been dominated by Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan samajwadi Party since the early 1990s. These parties have majorly cashed in on the caste based vote bank politics.
Brief History of Akhilesh
One such candidate is Akhilesh Yadav, aged 38 years, son to SP supremo Mulayam singh Yadav and Malti Devi, born in Safai of Etawah district of UP. Ha has studied throughout in India, with graduation from University of Mysore and then went to University of Sydney to get his Masters in Environmental Engineering.
He entered Loksabha when he was 27, winning from Kannauj in 2000. He took over SP’s UP president in June 2009.
He has to his credits being the youngest Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, since 2012.
Analyzing the Environment:
- Bahujan Samajwadi Party: In 2007, when BSP came to power, a small chunk of Muslim and Upperclass voters had voted for them. These voters were the fragmented part of SP and BJP voters respectively. After that, over last 10 years there has been no such instance of happening again. It may have been an aberration and there are no signs of it happening again. So, even if whole Dalit block votes en masse for BSP, Mayavati has a very difficult task ahead. The 21% strong Dalit community just doesn’t give her a competitive edge over others. Over the last some years, it has also suffered from the fact that many leaders defected and went to other parties.
Apart from that, BSP has not been able to take any advantage of incumbency factor. They have not been a vocal opposition in Assembly. Just 3 years ago, they were not able to win a single seat in Lok Sabha elections. But still there is no significant change in their strategy. The ploy to work for the benefit of one community has been backfiring for other regional parties in other areas also and therefore BSP is not able to gain any grounds.
Mayavati’s image has not improved as a transformational leader. She is seen as a Dalit leader but people need a leader who can work on overall development of state. When it comes to electing between Mayawati and Akhilesh, the young CM’s clean and decisive image wins it for him.
But, voters in UP have a knack of splurging surprises. BSP is still a dark horse by being very neutral in this election. Other parties may make some mistake while trying to do several things and voter may just end up electing Mayawati again.
- Bhartiya Janta Party: It suffers greatly from the same issue it faced in Bihar. No regional leader is up to the task. Even if people want to see Narendra Modi as PM of India, they don’t have a face to vote for in the state of UP.
BJP currently enjoys 44% vote share from 2014 Lok Sabha elections. It is BJP’s election to lose. But still, it has not been able to come up with a competent CM face, which could be just the competitive advantage it needs right now. Being a pro-Hindutva party, BJP always starts with a disadvantage as it loses all the Muslims, Yadavs and Dalit votes to SP and BSP even before the first vote is cast. In addition, by fielding no Muslim candidate, BJP is sticking to its core competency. The other 65% population is all BJP gets to play with. They have their task cut out: To project a strong CM face. BJP is still fixated on the plan that worked for it in Maharasthra, without understanding that players have changed drastically.
- Congress: It is virtual non-player. The party realised early on that it won’t be able to stand upfront against any of the other party on its own and wisely sided with SP. It also suffers from leadership crisis, not just at state level but also at central level. It can act as a smaller ally and try to eat into the vote shares of other regional parties. But in no way it is a threat to any of the other two competitors.
The other competitors are non-existent. Moreover, these competitors (BSP and BJP) need to think something out of the box soon or they will not be able to survive the competitive advantage that Akhilesh has already gained.
Strategy adopted by Akhilesh Yadav
For last two years he has worked on projects which are highly visible. There may not be much return to these projects, but he made sure that people see that projects are being undertaken. Focus is more on big infra projects like Lucknow Metro. People wont be able to see if there is new IT development but they will day in day out see Lucknow Metro project being undertaken.
He has created an image of a young responsible leader separate from party image. All the credit is being taken by ‘Akhilesh’ Govt and not SP govt. Similarly, he is fighting the election in presidential style campaigns. SP has become secondary to his name. This is on the lines of what Nitish Kumar did in Bihar. People didn’t care if Nitish Kumar made alliance with Lalu.
(There Is No Alternative): There is no other party with a bigger leader than him. Even the seasoned Mayawati falls short because the hundreds of statues created by her during her tenure doesn’t let people forget of her misdeeds. BJP has not been able to give a good leader. Congress is having leadership crisis since last two years, even at national level, let alone state level! Other parties are just fringe players.
As Akhilesh Yadav was CM himself, there is no point in negative campaigning. He has been doing positive campaign.
Branding and Positioning:
- Hired Steve Jarding for campaign management after Congress hired Prashant Kishore post successful stint in Bihar.
- Separate manifesto for each area because each area has different issues. For example: non-payment of cane arrears may be an issue in western UP, but it is not an issue in Bundelkhand.
- Vidya Balan was roped in to endorse Samajwadi Pension Yojana. Jarding said, “Samajwadi Pension Scheme has reached far and wide, but the problem is that the beneficiaries don’t know whether it is a state or central scheme.”
- The fiasco between father-son was to get a clean image for Akhilesh Yadav. It worked perfectly as people now do not associate nepotism and corruption with Akhilesh Yadav which has been so pervasive in UP Politics.
- UP Politics was always about Servant Leadership as evident when Mayavati and Mulayam won in cyclical order on the promise to ‘serve’ their community. But Akhilesh Yadav has changed it this time.
- He is projecting himself as a transformational leader. He is not promising to serve the wellbeing of one community but transform UP. He believes that he has done just that in his previous term and will continue to do so. In past 5 years, voters have become more conscious and therefore this change in strategy was much needed to fight off any complacency.
Leadership styles are of five broad types: Autocratic, Charismatic, Democratic, Transformational, Servant.
Akhilesh falls in transformational category and not because he is ‘transforming’ UP but he has brought accountability to bureaucrats, which is a trait of Transformational Leader.