Elections in India often present one defining moment that makes or breaks the fortunes of a leader. During the campaign for Bihar Assembly elections 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made one blunder by questioning the ‘DNA’ of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar at an election rally in Muzaffarpur. Modi’s remark backfired as the Grand Alliance leaders designed a campaign claiming Modi had demeaned Bihar’s pride. Cut to 2017, Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav appears to have made a similar blunder like Modi by referring to the PM as well as BJP president Amit Shah as “donkeys” of Gujarat. In a dig at PM Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, Akhilesh today said at a rally, “There is an advertisement on donkeys. I will ask the biggest superstar of this century (Amitabh Bachchan) not to promote the donkeys of Gujarat.”
In crime-infested Uttar Pradesh, it is not surprising to listen to such remarks from one of the topmost leaders of the state, even as he has been bestowed with the certificate of “Mr clean” by a section of media and his hardcore supporters. It is certain that Akhilesh’s remark against the PM would not do anything to advance his electoral prospects. He will get only what he deserves. However, the chances that Akhilesh’s remark against Shah and Modi would backfire are more. Reason: PM Modi is a popular face in Uttar Pradesh. It was his personal charisma that won BJP 71 out of 80 seats in 2014 General Elections.
In 2017 also, BJP doesn’t look like a pushover for opponents like SP-Congress or BSP. Second, BJP would further intensify their campaign against Akhilesh as their supreme leaders have been abused. What should be of more concern to Akhilesh, however, is not the “donkeys” of Gujarat but a brewing revolt within his own party because of his decision to join hands with Congress and, of course, the continuing feud with uncle Shivpal Yadav, who is also fighting in the elections on a SP ticket from Jaswantnagar. Recently, Akhilesh had openly campaigned against Shivpal in Itawah. The open feud has left many voters confused.
Following the alliance with Congress, Rahul cut off tickets of 105 SP aspirants who were preparing for the elections for long. Many of them are now contesting against SP nominees as rebels, while some have switched over to other parties like BSP, BJP and RLD. Most of the SP leaders who were denied tickets belonged to Shivpal camp and now they are fuming. Some leaders who were ministers in Akhilesh’s state cabinet like Ambika Chowdhury, Narad Rai and Vijay Mishra joined BSP. Similarly, Sharda Pratap Shukla joined RLD after finding his fate uncertain under SP umbrella. Akhilesh also denied ticket to another leader in Zahurabad (Ghazipur), Shadab Fatima. She is not contesting but also not campaigning for the party.
According to a PTI report, some of the sitting MLAs who were denied tickets are Vijay Mishra from Gyanpur (Bhadhoi), Haji Zamirullah Khan from Koli (Aligarh), Shamimul Haq from Moradabad Rural, Ashfaq Khan, MLA from Naugawan Sadar (Amroha), Syed Ahmad Babu Khan from Shahabad Hardoi, Wasim Ahmad from Gopalpur (Azamgarh) and Kamal Yusuf from Domariaganj. Though the party has officially declined to accept that it could face backlash after denying tickets to so many candidates, there are many who could spoil SP’s poll game.
(With agency inputs)