Although Mulayam remains the main vote-catcher,it is state president Akhilesh who has brought about a transition in the way strategies are being made for the current elections. Akhilesh,MP from Kannauj,has replaced his father in that key role. And as master strategist,he manages booths,looks after the needs of candidates,attends to party workers grievances against candidates,collects feedback from Assembly seats and also looks after media affairs.
And the way the tech-savvy Akhilesh does all this is through a network he has set up,which routes information from the ground level right to him. This is vastly different from Mulayams way of working. He likes to sit with party workers who gather regularly on the lawns of the SP office in Lucknow and get a briefing of what is happening at ground level.
Netaji gets upset if he does not see a crowd of party activists on the office premises, says a party source associated with Netaji Mulayam since the early 1970s.
Akhilesh,in contrast,spends little time interacting with workers at his office. Akhilesh has his own way of collecting feedback, says a party leader. Members of his team stay in constant touch on the phone with party workers at ground level. They collect all the information right from the spot.
Akhilesh has set up a 24×7 control room on the office premises at Lohia Trust,Vikramaditya Marg. A team of young workers man the control room,assessing the feedback. Most of them are close friends of his,some of them foreign-educated, a source says.
Mulayam blindly trusts the information given to him by his workers and leaders,while Akhilesh believes in cross-checking wherever he has the slightest doubt, the source says. The control room is his tool.
The control room also functions as a call centre. Dial 0522-2235818 and you will never get a busy tone. The team on duty can take 30 calls at a time, the source says.
One of the control rooms main tasks is to check how much of the information is correct. For example,SP candidates have submitted lists of workers to the party office. The state has about 55,000 villages,besides purvas and madais (parts of villages). If a village is said to have five booth committee members,the control room contacts them and verifies that each is there, a party functionary says.
No one can give a false picture about the partys prospects in any area either, he adds. Akhilesh talks personally to even booth committee members. If there is a serious complaint anywhere,an urgent message will be delivered to Akhilesh. He will ensure action.
The control room also helps Akhilesh stay abreast of TV news. His team records the visuals from TV. One of them prepares a text and it is delivered to Akhilesh on mobile phone, a partyman said.
He cited the example of Rajya Sabha member Mohan Singhs removal as SP national spokesperson after he had made a statement supporting don D P Yadavs induction in the party after Akhliesh had already spoken agianst it.
Bhaiya (Akhilesh) was holding an election meeting. The text of Mohan Singhs exact statement was sent to him. He swung into action and the result is there for everyone to see, the source says.
Shortly after Akhilesh took command of the state unit in June 2009,he introduced interviews for poll ticket aspirants. Not even old party leaders who enjoyed a personal relation with his father were excluded, another leader says. He made it clear that it is he who would decide the partys strategies in the 2012 elections. He also ensured group discussions for ticket aspirants.
For the current polls,one decision Akhilesh has taken is that the party would avoid direct criticism of anyone. When Akhilesh is touring,the control room gets updates of his speeches within meetings. Based on local feedback,the team has also been assessing the public impact of meetings by various leaders.