In another indication of Akhilesh Yadav’s complete hold over the Samajwadi Party, it kicked off its two-day state and national convention in Lucknow’s Ramabai Ambedkar Rally Ground Wednesday by re-electing Akhilesh’s man Naresh Uttam Patel as the state unit president.
The Kurmi leader from Fatehpur district first took over in 2017, when he replaced Akhilesh’s estranged uncle Shivpal Yadav. While Shivpal was seen as an equal claimant to the SP chief’s throne, the little-known Patel was a surprise choice – and has remained unknown.
Among the few things partymen vouch for is his proximity to Akhilesh, citing the fact that when the SP president dissolved all the various bodies of the party, Patel was the only one who kept his post.
Akhilesh has reiterated his trust in the 66-year-old despite the SP losing three elections since Patel took over (the 2017 Assembly, 2019 Lok Sabha and the 2022 state polls).
Patel is believed to have proved his worth keeping a close watch on the party cadre across the state while keeping in the shadows and not trying to outshine Akhilesh in any way. A senior SP leader said Akhilesh trusts him implicitly in dealings with the cadre and on matters of the state unit.
While the state meeting concluded Wednesday, the SP will hold its national convention Thursday, where Akhilesh is set to be re-elected as the national president.
On Wednesday, the SP also passed its political and economic resolutions, in which it accused the BJP of “cheating” to win the panchayat elections in 2021, and using the same as a dress rehearsal for the 2022 polls.
While the choice of the massive grounds for the convention, instead of the party office, had raised expectations, Akhilesh’s speech was mostly lacklustre. He urged party workers and leaders to take forward the Samajwadi movement, and to work unitedly for the party’s ideology.
Speaking about the SP’s alliance with the BSP and Mayawati, Akhilesh said: “It is the dream of us Samajwadis that those who divide society are removed from power. If we look back at the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Samajwadis took a historic decision which was a dream of crores of people of the country… that the powers of Bahujan (society) come together. The dream of Dr Ram Manohar Lohia and of the architect of the Constitution, Dr B R Ambedkar, could not be fulfilled during their life, but in 2019, the Samajwadis sacrificed for a compromise.”
Akhilesh pointed out that in the Assembly elections earlier this year, the SP vote share had increased and its seats doubled. “If there is any party that can defeat the BJP, it is the Samajwadi Party.”
He attacked the BJP government for failing to clean up the Ganga river, saying even the High Court had said that “only fraud” was being done in its name. He claimed that the Modi government was working towards privatisation of all important sectors.
Congratulating Patel on becoming the SP Uttar Pradesh chief again, Akhilesh said he hoped that the SP becomes the party with the most disciplined cadre under his leadership.