How Akhilesh Yadav trumped Modi-Yogi in Uttar Pradesh — ‘sway of caste over communal politics’


Lucknow: The Samajwadi Party’s social engineering strategy of fielding non-Yadav OBCs and Dalit candidates has paid off, capturing an unprecedented 37 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh. This performance, in the state that sends the maximum number of MPs to Parliament, is not only the SP’s best showing in a Lok Sabha election yet but has also made it the third-largest party in the country.

The winning formula for the party—which had managed only 5 seats in 2019— included a line-up of 32 OBC, 16 Dalit, 10 upper caste, and 4 Muslim candidates. Overall, the SP contested 62 out of UP’s 80 Lok Sabha seats, with its INDIA alliance partners Congress and TMC fielding candidates in 17 and 1, respectively.

Out of the SP’s victories, 20 and 7 seats were clinched by OBC and Dalit candidates respectively. Overall, this performance has eclipsed their 2004 record under SP founder Mulayam Singh Yadav, where they grabbed 35 seats. The SP’s revival in UP has also delivered a blow to the BJP, whose seats in the state dropped to 33 from 62 in 2019.

For Akhilesh, who faced his first major litmus test after the death of his father and SP patron Mulayam Singh Yadav, Tuesday’s performance is a major boost for his leadership, say political observers and SP leaders alike.

“The last general election where we got 35 seats in UP was in 2004. But we have bettered that number this time and this is by far the best performance of the party under Akhileshji’s leadership,” a jubilant SP leader said.

In a post on X Wednesday, Akhilesh wrote that the SP’s performance was a victory of the INDIA team and the “PDA strategy”— which stands for picchhde (backward), Dalit, and alpsankhyak (minorities).

“This victory belongs to the strong alliance of backward-Dalit-minority-tribal groups, half the population (OBCs), and the disadvantaged among the upper castes, embodied in the PDA,” he wrote in Hindi.


An analysis by ThePrint in April showed that this time, the SP concentrated on wooing the OBCs, the largest voting bloc in UP, comprising 40 percent of the population, along with Dalits, who constitute 20 percent.

The party’s candidate selection reflected a detailed caste calculus tailored to suit the demographics of each constituency.

Among the 32 OBC candidates, four were Yadavs (counting Akhilesh’s wife Dimple, although she is a Thakur by birth), while the rest included 4 Vermas, 3 Nishads, 2 Patels, 2 Jats, and 1 each from the Kushwaha, Pal, Rajbhar, Bind, and Gurjar communities. The 16 Dalit candidates included 6 Jatavs and 10 non-Jatavs.

“The biggest takeaway in this election is the sway of caste-based politics over communal politics,” said Mirza Asmer Beg, a professor of political science from Aligarh Muslim University. “Akhilesh Yadav managed to undo the BJP’s attempt at polarisation by fielding candidates from dominant castes.”

Also Read: Dimple Yadav wins in Samajwadi Party pocket borough Mainpuri by over 2.2 lakh votes


Caste vs communalism

Hand-picked candidates tailored to the caste matrix of each constituency played a major role in the Samajwadi Party upsetting the BJP’s calculations and defusing its communal politics, according to SP leaders and political analysts.

Speaking to ThePrint, SP chief spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary attributed the party’s performance to Akhilesh Yadav’s leadership, candidate selection, and “widespread anger” against the BJP’s communal politics.

“This was a big election and the mandate has come as a major booster. Due to Akhileshji’s astute leadership, inclusive policies and candidate selection, the public has placed its trust in us. Coming together with the Congress helped too,” he said. “The public clearly wanted change and has reposed faith in Akhilesh ji. It has rejected the communal politics of the BJP.”

Several SP leaders told ThePrint they saw the 37-seat tally as a major breakthrough that establishes Akhilesh as a powerful leader not only in UP but also on the national scene.

They also pointed to the lackluster campaign of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and speculation about its pandering to the BJP as a reason for Dalits gravitating towards the SP.

In one of the more remarkable outcomes of this election, Awadhesh Prasad, the SP’s Dalit candidate in the non-reserved Faizabad seat, under which Ayodhya falls, defeated the BJP’s sitting MP Lallu Singh.

Manoj Singh Kaka, SP spokesperson credited the Dalit community for voting for the SP in huge numbers, adding that the party is committed to respecting their sentiments and increasing their representation.

Kaka also claimed that the SP’s “inclusive politics” helped it overcome tough odds.

“Members of no other political party have been harassed as much as that of the SP. Under tough circumstances, our party fought the BJP and took forward its inclusive politics. The government put our MLAs and leaders like Azam Khan in jail but the public made it clear that it has faith in Akhilesh ji,” he said.

Both Mirza Asmer Beg and TP Singh, professor of political science at Banaras Hindu University, agreed that the SP’s performance has made the party one to watch nationally.

“Akhilesh Yadav is now the most powerful leader in national politics after Rahul Gandhi and he will play a major role in national politics in near future,” Singh said.

A bastion reclaimed

One of the Samajwadi Party’s triumphs in this election was reclaiming its stronghold of Kannauj from the BJP. Akhilesh Yadav himself contested from this seat, winning by a margin of 1,70,922 votes against BJP’s sitting MP Subrat Pathak.In 2019, Pathak had wrested the seat from Akhilesh’s wife, Dimple Yadav.

Kannauj holds special significance for Akhilesh and his party. He won his first election from the seat in 2000 after his father vacated it, having secured wins from both Kannauj and Sambhal.

In all, Akhilesh has represented Kannauj thrice—in 2000, 2004, and 2009. His wife Dimple then contested from the seat in 2012 when Akhilesh became the CM of UP, and later in the 2014 general election, which she won.

Kannauj is also symbolically important for the Samajwadi Party as it represents socialist ideals. Socialist stalwart Ram Manohar Lohia won the seat in 1967 as a Samyukta Socialist Party candidate, while Mulayam Singh Yadav won it in 1999.

(Edited by Asavari Singh)

Also Read: Modi wins Varanasi for 3rd consecutive time, but margin of victory down by 3 lakh from 2019


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