From Struggle to Success: How Samajwadi Party’s Policy Reforms and Youth Appeal Won Over Uttar Pradesh

Sanjana Chawla,

Lucknow: The 2024 general elections have reshaped the nation’s political landscape, with the surprising resurgence of the Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh — a state known for its fierce political rivalries.

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In a remarkable turn of events, the SP clinched victory with 37 seats, overshadowing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which won in 35 constituencies. This dramatic reversal contrasts sharply with previous elections, signalling a notable shift in the state’s political dynamics.

UP, often viewed as a microcosm of India’s diverse political landscape, has long been a battleground for competing parties. With its vast electorate and diverse demographics, the state witnessed intense campaigning as parties sought to sway voters. Amidst this fervor, the SP emerged as the unexpected victor, altering the political landscape of the region.

Reflecting on 2019: The SP’s Struggle

In retrospect, the Akhilesh Yadav-led party faced a challenging period leading up to the 2019 elections, raising doubts about its continued relevance in the state’s political landscape, and by extension, India’s. The outcomes of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections were particularly disappointing for the party, as it managed to secure only five seats, a significant decline from the 23 seats it held in 2014. This downturn not only shook the party’s morale but also triggered widespread speculation about its potential for resurgence.

The SP’s diminished performance in the 2019 elections was attributed to various factors, including leadership challenges, internal discord and an inability to effectively communicate its policies and vision to the electorate. It appeared to be losing touch with its traditional voter base, while its appeal among the youth dwindled.

The SP, once a dominant force in the state’s politics, appeared to be caught in a downward spiral.

However, the tide turned dramatically in the 2024 elections, as it secured a majority of 37 seats in Uttar Pradesh. This marked a significant turnaround from its previous performance and signalled a resurgence of the SP in the state’s political landscape. The party’s unexpected victory not only surprised observers but also underscored its resilience and capacity to adapt to changing circumstances.

Revival of the Leader and Brand SP

In the realm of politics, leadership stands as a cornerstone, shaping a party’s identity, policies and electoral fortunes. Within the SP, the stewardship of Yadav has been pivotal in orchestrating the party’s remarkable resurgence.

Reflecting on SP’s resurgence, Faraan Safwi, 28, national vice president of the party’s youth wing, remarked, “Under the continuous guidance of Shri Akhilesh Yadav, who actively engages with grassroots workers and members, we have endeavoured to restore the essence of our party to its former glory, reminiscent of the era of our leader, Neta Ji (Mulayam Singh Yadav).”

Akhilesh assumed the mantle of leadership with a vision to rejuvenate the party, shedding its outdated image and presenting it as a progressive entity attuned to the aspirations of the contemporary electorate. This transformation entailed a significant departure from conventional politics, embracing a more forward-thinking and inclusive agenda. Prioritising issues such as unemployment, education, and healthcare, Yadav aimed to address the concerns of youth and marginalised communities.

“We have actively provided opportunities to youths from diverse backgrounds, including the Shakya, Kushwaha and Maurya communities,” Safwi explained.

Presently, the SP boasts five parliamentarians under the age of 30 and has extended electoral tickets to candidates from marginalised communities. “For instance, consider Iqra Hasan in Kairana (29) and Awdesh Prasad Ji in Ayodhya, one a Muslim woman and the other from the Dalit community. We have diligently worked to ensure the effective implementation of policies benefiting the marginalised,” Safwi affirmed.

The Youth Appeal

A pivotal element in the SP’s triumph in the 2024 elections was its resonance with the younger generation. Recognizing the decisive influence of youth in electoral outcomes, the SP strategically targeted this demographic, addressing their concerns and articulating a vision aligned with their aspirations.

In this endeavour, the leadership of Akhilesh played a pivotal role. “Akhilesh Yadav is adept at engaging with the youth and possesses mass appeal,” affirmed Faraan, adding, “His continuous interactions and receptivity to the concerns of young people provide him and the party with a distinct advantage in connecting with this demographic.”

The SP’s focus on pivotal issues such as unemployment, education and social justice struck a chord with the youth electorate. Promising to create more job opportunities, reform the education system and ensure social equity, the party’s agenda resonated deeply with young voters.

The party’s adeptness in addressing the aspirations and grievances of the youth has been a cornerstone of its success. Faraan underscored this approach in line with the vision of Mulayam Singh, emphasising, “We continuously integrate young voices into our committees and maintain numerous youth-focused fronts.”

The SP’s electoral triumph signifies a notable shift in Uttar Pradesh’s political landscape, with broader implications for the nation. The BJP, previously riding high on its electoral successes, found itself eclipsed by the SP’s surge, reflecting the changing tides of political sentiment.

Policy Reforms and Public Reception

In the lead-up to the 2024 elections, the SP unveiled a series of policy reforms outlined in its manifesto, signalling a significant departure from previous approaches and underscoring its commitment to tackling pressing public issues. More than just a collection of policies, the manifesto served as a blueprint for the party’s vision for the state and its citizens.

One of the cornerstone policy reforms introduced by the SP was its emphasis on addressing unemployment. Acknowledging the mounting concern, particularly among the youth, the party pledged to create additional job opportunities and foster skill development initiatives. In addition, a concerted effort was promised to enhance the education system’s quality and accessibility. The party also committed to bolstering healthcare infrastructure and making medical services more affordable and accessible.

Reflecting on the factors that resonated with voters, Faraan remarked, “Public sentiment shifted towards issues directly impacting their daily lives, transcending traditional divides of religion and caste. Farmers expressed concerns about rising expenses on agricultural inputs, such as fertilisers, and losses due to stray cattle, while the youth voiced apprehensions about unemployment and instances of exam paper leaks.”

These policy reforms were not merely reactionary measures but represented a forward-looking vision for the state’s development. The SP’s manifesto articulated a comprehensive strategy encompassing infrastructure enhancement, social justice initiatives and economic growth prospects.

The public response to these policy reforms was overwhelmingly positive, with voters appreciating the party’s commitment to addressing critical issues such as unemployment, education and healthcare.

The party’s resurgence in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls can be attributed to a combination of strategic reforms, a renewed focus on youth engagement and effective coalition-building efforts. The SP’s capacity to adapt to evolving political dynamics and respond to citizens’ needs proved pivotal to its success. The astute leadership of Akhilesh and the initiatives undertaken under his stewardship also played a crucial role in the SP’s resurgence.

The 2024 elections herald a new era in Uttar Pradesh’s political landscape and the SP’s continued trajectory will be closely watched. Reflecting on the significance of this victory for the party and its cadre, Faraan emphasised, “Our dedication knows no bounds; this victory is not merely ours but a triumph for the ideals of socialism. Our struggle persists until we eradicate the politics of division and hatred.”