2017 is not so far away: An image make-over of the Samajwadi Party?

UP CM Akhilesh Yadav’s newfound efficiency earned him quite a few brownie points, especially amidst allegations that the government was giving a free hand to crime and corruption.

September 21, 2015: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, on Sunday, visited the Sheroes Hangout café, which is run by acid attack survivors in Agra. The chief minister has promised to help them run the café, and is believed to have directed officials to identify land for setting up a bigger and better café in Agra, and also in Lucknow and Noida.

This has earned him quite a few brownie points, especially amidst brewing discontent in the state, over allegations that the Samajwadi Party-led government was giving a free hand to crime and corruption.

Not just this. His actions over the last few days are noteworthy.

First, it was swift action over a harassment case filed by journalists of the all-women newspaper, Khabar Lahariya. After a story written in The Ladies Finger caught some attention, the CMO intervened, and a suspect, believed to be a 21-year-old, had been apprehended.

Then, there was the case of police brutality in Lucknow, where a cop had smashed the typewriter of a 65-year-old man, Krishna Kumar, who, for the last 35 years, earned his living by typing letters outside the GPO. The photographs of the incident went viral on social media, and several netizens offered to buy him a new typewriter. Reacting swiftly to the incident which captured the imagination of citizens, the chief minister suspended the cop on Sunday.

The prompt and timely action by the CMO is quite heartening. However, the political backdrop is hard to miss.

First, the Samajwadi Party’s drubbing in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, where it managed to win merely 5 seats out of the 80 up for grabs, upset the party chief. He had publicly criticized the state government, holding it responsible for the humiliating defeat, which shattered Mulayam Singh’s dream, of becoming the Prime Minister of the country.

In the run-up to the Bihar Assembly elections, Mulayam Singh Yadav played a huge role in the coming together of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Janata Dal (United) (JDU), and the Congress, to form the Mahagathbandhan, or the Grand Alliance, with them. This was seen as the re-union of the Janata Parivar, in a bid to put up a formidable fight against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the polls.

However, the SP supremo pulled out recently, over differences in seat-sharing. The party will now contest the Bihar polls alone.

But, the bigger storm for the party to brave is still two years out — the Assembly election in Uttar Pradesh in 2017. However, the chief minister’s actions will surely be seen as part of a long-term strategy for an image make-over for that very storm.

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