Dispirited opposition on overhaul, membership spree to stay afloat

SP President Akhilesh Yadav has dissolved the party’s state executive and sacked all office bearers, barring UP unit President Naresh Uttam Patel Photo: PTI
The deserted party headquarters of major opposition parties in Uttar Pradesh — the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Congress — in posh avenues of Lucknow are symptomatic of their dispirited leaders and cadre.

The crushing defeat in the Lok Sabha polls, coupled with some of their senior functionaries gravitating towards the rollicking poll machine of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has left these outfits deploying different strategies to stay afloat, even as the by-polls on 13 Assembly seats are due in October.

Their gradual decline, over the past decade, suddenly gained momentum after 2014 when the ‘Modi wave’ hit the Indian political landscape.

After resorting to quirky measures like debarring party spokespersons from news channel debates, the opposition parties are now overhauling their organisational set-ups and purging respective executives, committees and wings to weed out non-performers and deadwood.

At the same time, these parties have undertaken extensive membership drives to infuse fresh blood and re-energise demoralised workers.

These parties are looking to make inroads among women, youth, and farmers, hoping the new ranks of the cadre and functionaries will deliver goods not only in the by-polls but the big battle in 2022, when the Yogi Adityanath govern-ment seeks a fresh mandate.

For instance, the Congress targets enrolling nearly 10 million members in UP over the next four months of its membership campaign. Following the drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls, the party had dissolved its committees in the state, even as party General Secretary in charge of eastern UP Priyanka Gandhi Vadra upped the ante against the ruling BJP by raising burning issues, such as the Sonbhadra massacre and the Unnao rape survivor’s accident.

Congress leader Zishan Haider said the grand old party was focusing on women and youth in its membership drive, especially in the constituencies where the by-polls will be held. “Membership drives are actually undertaken every year. However, since, Sonia Gandhiji has taken over as party president, the national and state executives and committees are being instituted afresh,” he said, adding, the Congress will fight the by-polls on its own. The party has already announced candidates for most seats.

Similarly, the SP has put the pedal to the metal for expanding its membership base, with a special focus on rural areas. Senior party leader and former UP minister Rajendra Chaudhary said the membership drive would continue for one-two months and target youth, women and marginalised sections of society.

Earlier, party President Akhilesh Yadav had dissolved the state executive and sacked all office bearers, barring UP unit President Naresh Uttam Patel. The party continues to battle the flight of senior party functionaries, including parliamentarians and legislators, to the BJP ever since Yadav took over the reins from his father and party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav in a coup of sorts.

The SP’s experiment of aligning with the Congress in the 2017 UP polls and the BSP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls miserably backfired, with the socialist party losing both electoral battles and the public face in the process.

So far, the SP has announced candidates for a few by-poll seats and the remaining will be announced soon, Chaudhary said. The party will also decide whether to forge an alliance with like-minded parties or not, he said.

Meanwhile, BSP President Mayawati has effected radical changes in its organisational structure for broad-based decision making, fixing responsibility, and fast implementing the action plan. Recently, she abolished the system of appointing the chief in charge of a zone for a block of three divisions in UP. Now, each division is treated as a zone and comprises three-four chief in charges for efficient management of party affairs.

Besides, she has appointed three chief coordinators for UP on the lines of the party’s national committee. The state’s committee now comprises BSP National General Secretary R S Kushwaha, newly appointed UP unit President Munaquad Ali, and legislator Bhimrao Ambedkar, thus giving equal representation to different sections. Also, the party has instituted district-level bhaichara (brotherhood) committees, with each district manned by eight-10 bhaichara in charges to ensure perpetual mass connect and mobilisation electorates during elections and party events.

Mayawati’s bête noire and Ambedkar Mahasabha President Lalji Nirmal opined: “Mayawati is merely trying to keep her flock intact with her overhaul and restricting exercises.”

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