Free Azam Khan campaign, cycle yatras across the state, nominating two women party workers on each booth, increasing voters on each booth and bringing them on the party’s side, a sustained reach-out to traders, backward class meetings and attempting a union of youth and farmers in its favour — this is how the Samajwadi Party under Akhilesh Yadav is rolling out its 2022 campaign.

Party leaders have fanned to the ground and the Samajwadi Party is using its good organisational strength to conduct multiple Yatras and meetings in districts and villages, like Janadesh Yatra, Chalo Booth Ke Paas Chaupal, Kisan Naujavan Patel Yatra and Sanvidhaan Bachao Sankalp Yatra to reach out to a cross-section of voters. The party is using slogans like Nayi hawa hai, nayi SP hai (there is a new wave, there is a new SP), UP ka yeh janadesh, aa rahe Akhilesh (UP wants Akhilesh) and Badon ka haath, Yuva ka saath (Blessings of Seniors, youth alongside) to paint a new narrative amongst voters.

Here’s taking a look at the major themes of the campaign:

Free Azam Khan

With Samajwadi Party aiming for Muslim vote consolidation in UP this time against the BJP government, the party is making the release of its tallest Muslim leader and Rampur MP, Azam Khan, a central point in its campaign. This is to dispel a notion earlier that the party had not stood by the side of Khan who is in jail for almost a year. Akhilesh Yadav recently went to Rampur to meet Khan’s family, visited the Mohammad Jauhar University and has said that he and the party are standing behind Khan whose arrest is out of political vendetta.

In fact, post the same, the party officially approached the UP assembly speaker pressing for the release of Khan. In Delhi, Samajwadi Party MP ST Hasan rallied support from MPs of 10 other parties to meet Speaker Om Birla with the same demand. SP workers also celebrated Azam Khan’s 73rd birthday across the state on August 14 with a prayer that their leader would be amongst them soon. The messaging is for the Muslim voter of UP by backing Khan.

Bring back Female voters and traders, who moved to BJP

The Samajwadi Party’s campaign is also focussing a lot on women voters and the traders community — two vote-banks that are said to have moved to the BJP in the last elections on account of alleged poor law-and-order and goondaism under the previous SP regime. Former party MP and Akhilesh’s wife Dimple Yadav and party’s senior woman leader Juhie Singh are coordinating a sustained campaign amongst women. For example, the party has decided to appoint two women workers at each booth in the state to send a reassuring message amongst the women voters.

Titled as a campaign to listen to the voice of the aadhi aabadi (half the population), the SP is raising issues among women voters like SP government schemes like Kanyadhan Yojana being stopped by the BJP, law and order incidents like Hathras that are creating fear and the rising inflation in price of daily goods like LPG cylinders.

Akhilesh Yadav has also held a series of meeting with traders to say he will support them as the CM and resolve their problems. This campaign has been titled ‘Vyapari jodo aur BJP ki pol kholo’ (Join traders and expose BJP) and meetings are now being held in towns with small traders in all districts, focussing on the complexities of the GST regime and how business was hit during COVID time.

Booth Campaign, Yatras and Backwards

A major part of the SP’s campaign is to help enlist new voters on each booth and bring them on the party’s side when it comes to the voting day. A youth wing of the party, the Mulayam Singh Youth Brigade, is leading this effort by holding camps in each district and helping new voters to enlist for voter lists. The party has also started a Chalo Booth Ke Paas Chaupal (Hold meetings near Booths) campaign to create a buzz amongst local voters about SP.

The party also knows that it is important for it to consolidate the backward vote and the same hence remains the centre piece of its campaign. It has already started with Backward Wing Meetings across the state, launching it from the village of Phoolan Devi on August 10 in Kanpur, with the party raising issues like the caste census and increasing reservation cap from 50% and cornering the BJP for not committing on both counts.

Ultimately, a series of Yatras are being conducted in various parts of the state. Like Akhilesh Yadav kicked off Cycle Yatras from August 5 in Lucknow while the party’s two smaller allies, the Janvadi Party Socialist and Mohan Dal have held Yatras in East and Central UP respectively last month, vowing to bring Akhilesh Yadav back to power. Senior SP leaders like MP Ram Gopal Yadav and Leader of Opposition of SP, Ram Govind Chaudhary helped in this Yatras of the two allies by flagging them off from districts.

SP’s state president Naresh Uttam is holding a Kisan Naujavan Patel Yatra in the state to rally the support of farmers and youth in favour of the party in the backdrop of the protests over the farm laws and prices of sugarcane procurement. This also involves reaching out to the unemployed and labourers and appealing to them to vote for the party given SP’s manifesto will have a lot for them.

The extent of this campaign also tends to blunt the notion that Akhilesh Yadav does not step out of Lucknow and the party lacks energy. A top Samajwadi Party leader told News18: “It is important for all to know that Samajwadi Party is actually the one which is active in the campaign on the ground and has the best organisational strength in the state. We may not be so much in the media but we are on the ground.”

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