06 Apr 2019
Tracing Samajwadi Party's roots and relevance in Indian politics
The road to Delhi goes through Lucknow is perhaps the oldest and most relevant political slogan. And for 2019 elections, two parties, which were arch-rivals, have joined hands to ensure BJP stays out of power.
But will the "socialist party" impact elections this time? Let's see what history tells us.
SP was formed in 1992, Mulayam became CM thrice
SP was one of the parties formed when Janata Dal broke into several pieces. Mulayam Singh Yadav founded the party in 1992 and he served as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh three times.
When SP got a landslide victory in the 2012 legislative assembly, it was expected Mulayam would become CM for the fourth time.
But he surprised everyone by naming his son Akhilesh.
Riding on socialism and ideas of stalwarts, SP gained prominence
Mulayam was influenced by ideas of leaders like Ram Manohar Lohia and Raj Narain. Staying true to its name, SP spoke about socialism and equality for all.
In 1993, an alliance between SP and BSP kept BJP out of UP, at a time when Ram Janmbhoomi movement was enjoying huge momentum.
The alliance didn't last long but SP cemented itself in UP's politics.
SP maintains distance and proximity with both Congress and BJP
As years passed, SP showed it is not restricted to just UP.
In 1996, SP lent support to United Front's government and Mulayam was given the post of Defense Minister.
SP has enjoyed support from both BJP and Congress, occasionally. In 2003, BJP dumped Mayawati's government in UP to ensure Mulayam sat on the CM's chair once again.
One doesn't have permanent friends or foes in politics!
Akhilesh's rise irked many in party
For years Mulayam was the sole decision maker of SP. So, when he made his son the CM, infighting in the party started.
His brother Shivpal Yadav didn't like Akhilesh's rise, and the latter expelled his uncle twice to send a strong message.
Mulayam tried to iron out the differences, he even berated Akhilesh publicly, but the new leader had already become famous among party cadres.
Disgruntled Shivpal floated his own party
Torn between brother and son, Mulayam chose a middle path. He gave blessings to both of them.
Political pundits claim Shah worked behind the doors to help Shivpal with an aim of denting SP's votes.
SP leaders have made problematic statements in the past
Leaders of SP have a penchant for staying in news, most of the times because of their statements.
When India was shaken due to 2012 Nirbhaya rape case, Mulayam claimed that "boys commit mistakes".
Abu Azmi, another firebrand leader of SP, once commented women who have sex outside marriage "should be hanged".
SP leaders have shown their sexist side more than once.
Akhilesh changed many things in SP and became popular
Akhilesh, who became the youngest Indian to become the CM, brought a new dawn in SP. The young gun didn't follow his father's handbook step-by-step and didn't show inhibition in breaking ties with those who pulled the party down.
Once, Akhilesh asked why did media never call unruly cadres of other parties as "goondas" but pasted the term on SP workers.
Defending his party through thick and thin, Akhilesh emerged as a mature leader.
Akhilesh displayed his political skills by forging alliance with BSP
A few months ago, Akhilesh played the biggest gamble of his political career. He joined hands with BSP and hinted he would even support Mayawati's bid of becoming PM.
And the move is far from suicidal.
The last parliamentary and assembly elections haven't brought good news for SP. For SP national president, the important task at hand was ensuring his party doesn't slip into oblivion. Hence, he took a smart decision.
Akhilesh may have bend a little, but will reap benefits
Moreover, the intricate details of the alliance show Akhilesh was ready to give Mayawati the upper hand. He may have gotten the smaller piece of the pie, but he definitely got the sweeter share.
The number of seats clearly don't matter to Akhilesh, winning them does. In all likeliness, the alliance will affect BJP.
Akhilesh has become a formidable player in politics, and could even trump his father one day.