New Delhi: After facing a crushing defeat in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections last year, the Samajwadi Party (SP) has begun work to regain lost ground ahead of the Lok Sabha election in 2019.
In an interview, SP national president and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav said that after the poll debacle there is no looking back for the party and its entire focus this year will be on the crucial general elections due in 2019.
“The time for losing is over. Now it is the time to gain and only gain. Whatever we have lost, we can only get it back through elections and the next big election is in 2019. We cannot go below our current tally. So now our seats will only increase from here," said Yadav.
SP was reduced to 47 of the 403 assembly seats in the February-March 2017 assembly elections won by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In 2014, the party had suffered a similar defeat when it could only win five of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance won 73 seats.
Yadav spearheaded the party’s campaign in the state elections after dislodging his father and party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav as the party president in January last year. He will once again be at the helm of party affairs for the 2019 election as he was re-elected as party president in September 2017.
Targeting the BJP for distracting the public from issues to non-issues, he said the SP will ask the BJP to give an account of poll promises made in its 2014 campaign .
“This country’s farmers, youth, traders and poor—all are against the BJP and will vote against the BJP now. They will have to give an account of the 73 seats they had won. UP gave BJP a chance; if they lose UP, no way can they make up. People will not have expectations from us as we are not in power anywhere; the only expectation from us will be to remove BJP from power and we are ready for it," he said.
The former CM also stressed the role that regional parties would play in stopping the BJP from coming back to power.
“I don’t know what shape an anti-BJP alliance will take but regional parties like the Trinamool Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal, SP, even Bahujan Samaj Party will play a crucial role in defeating the BJP," said Yadav.
Commenting on the performance of the Yogi Adityanath-led government in UP, Yadav said that his successor was shifting the focus from development to religion.
“The basic requirement of any state to do well is that it should have good infrastructure, but the BJP government is focusing more on the issues of cow (protection) and religion which they had won the election with," he said.
Analysts say that in 2019 SP will need a combination of strategy, leadership and ideology to engineer a victory.
“In the 300-odd seats that the SP contested in 2017, its vote share was more or less similar to what it secured in 2012. This shows that Akhilesh still holds support among people. On the other hand, the fascination with Modi is slowly fading away and the BJP is expected to not perform as well as it did in 2014. However, instead of just criticizing Modi, he should campaign about what his party can do differently for the people," said A.K. Verma, a Kanpur-based political analyst and political science professor at Christ Church College.