The Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party may have suffered a humiliating defeat in the state Assembly elections, but a lot of voters in the city commiserate with the outgoing chief minister for trying to change the party image from a Yadav outfit to a progressive political party. In the generosity, the blame for the electoral reverses is conveniently shifted to the Congress and "traitor" Shivpal.
"The Congress turned out to be the hand of Bhasmasur (a mythological demon who turns into ashes whoever he puts his hand on)," says Ramcharan Yadav, a sullen activist outside the party office at the broad, metaled Vikramaditya Marg in Lucknow.
Long faces greet you inside the office. Party activists in starch-laden kurtas, green stoles and dark red caps look bored and brooding. However, they put up a brave face in their interaction with the media, initially.
"Only two-three rounds of results have come in. We are confident that SP is going to form the government under Akhilesh Yadav," says one of them before the cameras. Another party worker goes to the extent of blaming faulty EVMs. They reiterate their faith in the leadership of Akhilesh Yadav, who is locked inside his residence a few paces from the office. But Akhilesh's rivals in politics and his own party do not mince words in mocking his "inexperience". "The decision to cede 100 seats to the Congress before the polls and making gestures to arch-rival Mayawati after the exit polls, clearly indicate that he knew the Samajwadi Party was incapable of taking on the rising popularity of the BJP under Prime Minster Narendra Modi," state BJP spokesperson Dr Chandra Mohan told Mail Today.
The burden of "inexperience" is admitted by several SP workers, although grudgingly. "Do anubhav-heen neta mil gaye (Two inexperienced leaders came together)," said a disgruntled SP activist at the party office on Saturday, in his reaction to the alliance between Gandhi and Yadav scions.
The activists from the Shivpal camp are more brutal. "Neta ji said it earlier that wearing a red cap does not a politician make. When you disrespect your elders, what message are you trying to send to your loyal supporters? Behaviour bolta hai," said an anonymous party worker sitting outside Shivpal Yadav's Lucknow residence, referring to Akhilesh's poll slogan "Kaam bolta hai". Shivpal who had left for his ancestral village, Saifai, a day earlier, must be feeling vindicated. The first major fallout of the defeat will be that the feud between Shivpal and Akhilesh will only grow bitterer. As the day wore on, bringing in little respite for the Samajwadi Party, the Akhilesh camp at the party office openly foul-mouthed the "traitor" for working against the party nominees at the hustings. A formal split in party is bigger possibility now.
For, the goodwill generated by the young Yadav leader for launching reforms in the party is pitched sharply against his political inexperience and open defiance of seniors.
The second main fallout is that the chances of an alliance between the SP and Congress for the 2019 general election stand blown away. For, the party supporters are quick and resilient in laying the (orphaned) defeat at the Congress door and a repeat of such an experiment will be fraught with disaster for Akhilesh Yadav.