SAMAJWADI Party leader Dimple Yadav has lost as many elections as she has won (twice each). After the 2019 loss from Kannuaj parliamentary seat, she was virtually retired from political life, till death of SP titan and father-in-law Mulayam Singh Yadav brought her back in the fray.
Now, after remaining conspicuously absent during the 2022 Assembly poll campaign, Dimple is on the road canvassing for the Mainpuri Lok Sabha bypoll, appealing to women, taking selfies with youths, and seeking sympathy votes in the name of Mulayam.
Mainpuri was Mulayam’s backyard, with the SP founder winning the seat five times, making this a prestige battle for the party and especially for Mulayam’s heir apparent and Dimple’s husband, Akhilesh Yadav.
The BJP, which is seeking to expand its caste outreach in Uttar Pradesh and spared no effort in honouring Mulayam on his death, is also recalling the SP founder’s contributions in its campaign speeches.
So Dimple and Akhilesh, now the SP president, tell voters to pick the SP on December 5 as “a real tribute to Netaji”. “Yeh samvedna ka chunav hai (this is a sympathy election),” says Umakant Kashyap, a local SP worker.
On Tuesday afternoon, Dimple starts her campaign from Shakya-dominated Kairawali village in the Karhal Assembly segment. Akhilesh was elected as MLA from Karhal in the recent Assembly elections. Shakyas are the second-largest group in the Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat after the Yadavs, and the BJP has fielded Raghuraj Singh Shakya against her.
SP supporters welcome Dimple with slogans of “Dimple bhabhi zindabad”, “Akhilesh bhaiyya zindabad” and “Netaji amar rahen”. Women and workers greet her on the stage with flowers, as youths touch her feet.
Without losing time, Dimple starts her address to the crowd of nearly 500 people, with men and women present in almost equal numbers. It’s a 7-minute speech, with the mention of “Netaji” over a dozen times. “This is the first election happening when Netaji is not with us. Netaji always followed ideals and principles. Netaji touched your life and you all held him in high regard. I am the daughter-in-law of Netaji but I am also a sister and daughter to all of you. I am sure you will honour Netaji on December 5,” Dimple says.
In her attack on the BJP government, she focuses on lack of jobs, and says that Netaji and SP governments had brought development to Mainpuri.
Her cavalcade next moves towards the Brahmin-dominated Kuchela village, where an SP worker appeals to youths to vote for Dimple, saying: “All devars (brothers-in-law) of Mainpuri get ready to ensure the win of Dimple bhabhi.”
Calling Mainpuri a “samajwadi garh (SP bastion)”, Dimple repeats that every “samajwadi garh” can be assured of development. Dubbing the new Agniveer scheme for Army recruitments “painful”, she says past SP governments, in contrast, had ensured laptops for youths.
Dimple’s next stop is Rathera village, nearly all of whose 10,000-plus voters are Yadavs, the base vote of the SP. Confident of a clean sweep here, Dimple skips a speech and instead does a roadshow over the narrow and bumpy lanes in an SUV, with children and youths lining up for selfies with her.
Rahul Yadav, an Arts graduate, says Dimple’s visit was needed. “All the people in this village vote for the SP. Still, Dimple’s visit was a must to pay regards to the Yadavs, or they can get upset.”
Dimple moves on to Nagla Manu village, dominated by Jatav Dalits — considered BSP voters — apart from Yadavs and other OBCs. In 2019, when Mulayam last won from the seat, the BSP had been an SP ally. Dimple first garlands a statue of Bhimrao Ambedkar here, and in her speech, makes it a point to mention names of local leaders from different castes, including Dalits, OBCs and upper castes.
The Mainpuri bypoll result will give “a direction to the country”, she says. She invites a young woman from the audience onto the stage, and the latter complains that youths are not getting jobs, farmers are in a poor condition and inflation is a major problem under BJP rule.
Dimple has also issued a written appeal to the voters of Mainpuri, which is being distributed across the constituency in the form of pamphlets. These say Dimple will follow the footsteps of Mulayam, and is committed to fulfilling his dreams of development in Mainpuri.
If Mulayam is a constant presence in the SP campaign, as is Akhilesh, one notable absentee at Dimple’s meetings, in slogans and material, is Shivpal Singh Yadav. Mulayam’s brother who recently buried the hatchet with Akhilesh has for now announced his support to Dimple.
The uncertainty regarding Shivpal’s loyalties, however, refuses to die. One reason being that the BJP’s candidate, Raghuraj Singh Shakya, is a former aide of Shivpal. If a section of the Yadav vote goes to him, apart from the support of Shakyas, he could pose a challenge to Dimple.
In her campaign, Dimple also omits any mention of her opponent.