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Explained: Symbolism of Samajwadi Party red cap—more a stamp of Akhilesh than of party

The bright red caps serve to make leaders and workers of the SP instantly recognisable in UP's crowded political scene, while making, according to the party, a bold social statement.

Written by Lalmani Verma , Edited by Explained Desk | Lucknow |
Updated: December 9, 2021 8:43:17 am
New Delhi: Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav wearing party cap walks towards the Mahatma Gandhi's statue at Parliament in New Delhi. (PTI)

A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi targeted the Samajwadi Party (SP) by saying that “laal topi waale (those wearing red caps)” were like a “red alert” for Uttar Pradesh, SP parliamentarians including founder leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and national president Akhilesh Yadav on Wednesday (December 8) attended Lok Sabha wearing red caps.

The SP’s official handle tweeted pictures of SP leaders in the red caps, and a video of Akhilesh’s rally on Tuesday (December 7) with RLD president Jayant Chaudhary with the caption: “Yeh krantikari lal rang ki topiyan (Those revolutionary red caps)”.

The bright red caps serve to make leaders and workers of the SP instantly recognisable in UP’s crowded political scene, while making, according to the party, a bold social statement. On his Twitter handle, Akhilesh has posted a black-and-white photo of himself on a bicycle, the SP’s election symbol, interacting with a group of young people, with only his cap in bright red.

Mulayam not fond of caps

Mulayam Singh Yadav founded the Samajwadi Party on October 4, 1992. Party insiders said that Mulayam himself was never fond of wearing caps of any colour, and wore the red cap only on rare occasions.

However, in 1998, he did suggest to the Yuvjan Sabha, a front organisation of his party, to wear red caps.

Pictures from the SP’s national conventions are available on the party’s website. In the picture of the SP’s first national convention held on November 4 that year, no person on the dais can be seen in a red cap. However, two persons — one of them sitting just behind Mulayam — can be seen wearing white Gandhi topis.

In this picture of the SP’s first national convention, no person can be seen in a red cap. However, two persons can be seen wearing white Gandhi topis. (Source:

In the photo of the SP’s second national conference that was held in Lucknow on October 11 and 12, 1994, Mulayam and everyone else on the dais with him are bare-headed, except for one leader wearing a Gandhi cap. The party banner behind them is, however, in all red.

In SP’s second national conference, everyone but two were bare-headed. The party banner was red. (Source:

The SP’s familiar red-and-green banner — the colours of the party flag today — appears in the photo of the third national convention held in Lucknow on July 27-28, 1996. According to party spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary, the red in the SP’s flag stands for its commitment towards labourers, and the green for farmers.

The third convention had a red-and-green banner. (Source:

The all-red banner of 1994, however, returns in the photo of the fourth conference in Bhopal on January 29-31, 1999. But Mulayam and most of his colleagues on the dais are seen wearing large red-and-green badges.

The red banner in the fourth convention. (Source:

The red cap appears for the first time in the picture of the party’s fifth national conference, held in Kanpur on January 3-4, 2002, a full decade after the SP was founded. A party leader is seen sitting in the back row on the dais wearing the red cap. The red-and-green banner too returns in this picture. Mulayam and several others are wearing the red-and-green badges.

No red cap is visible in the photo of the sixth conference, held in Patna on April 21-23, 2005.

But one leader is seen in the red cap in the photo of the next conference, the seventh, held in Jabalpur on March 26-28, 2008.

Akhilesh and the red cap

Akhilesh Yadav makes a first appearance in the photo from the SP’s eighth national conference, held in Agra on June 7-8, 2011.

He is seen wearing the red cap, along with at least three others, all clustered close to him on the dais. Mulayam is on the dais, but without a cap. Two leaders are seen wearing white Gandhi topis.

After taking control of the party in 2016-17, Akhilesh encouraged party workers and leaders to wear the red cap. After losing the SP lost the Assembly election of 2017 and the BJP came to power in UP, he started to wear the cap at all party functions and public events.

He ensured that party workers wore the cap at protests and demonstrations against the Yogi Adityanath government’s policies, and against incidents of crime in the state.

The front organisations of the party — the Lohia Vahini and Youth Brigade — too wear the red caps, with the name of the organisation printed on them. SP workers were wearing red caps when they scuffled with police in Chandauli on Sunday.

Akhilesh Yadav waves at the crowd during ‘Samajwadi Vijay Yatra’ ahead of the UP Assembly elections 2022, in Jhansi. (Twitter/AkhileshYadav)

The significance of red

Party spokesperson Chaudhary, who has attended all conventions of the SP, said: “The red cap was adopted by socialist leaders in their first convention in 1934 in Patna. The leaders subsequently went their separate ways, but they and the members of their organisations and parties continued to wear the red cap. One example is that of the Praja Socialist Party, whose leaders too wore red caps.”

In a statement on Wednesday (December 8), Akhilesh said: “BJP leaders are scared of the red cap… BJP ki lal batti gul hone wali hai (BJP is set to lose power).”

He added that BJP leaders might be unaware that red is the colour of Lord Hanuman, and of the sun and of blood; red is the colour of change. “Kali topi wale (RSS) yeh nahi samajh payenge kyunki unki sonch sankeern hai. (Those wearing black caps — the colour of the RSS’s headgear — cannot understand the meaning and significance of red because of their narrow mindset,” Akhilesh said.

Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav wearing party cap at Parliament, during the Winter Session in New Delhi. (PTI)

Interestingly though, the cap of the BJP’s ally Nishad Party is also of a colour close to red. Party president Sanjay Nishad says that the colour of his party’s cap is “maroon”. Nishad was wearing his party cap when he was with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the dais in Gorakhpur on Tuesday.

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