Decode Politics: Akhilesh’s PDA vs NDA pitch: Why it’s not as easy as public display of affection  | Political Pulse News – DollarJob

Decode Politics: Akhilesh’s PDA vs NDA pitch: Why it’s not as easy as public display of affection  | Political Pulse News


For the coming Lok Sabha polls, even as it has tied up with the INDIA bloc, the Samajwadi Party (SP) has come up with a ‘PDA’ formulation to consolidate and expand its vote bank in Uttar Pradesh. However, in a blow to this, several senior leaders have recently lashed out at the SP leadership, accusing it of doing exactly the opposite of what it professes and neglecting the ‘PDA’ communities. On Tuesday, prominent OBC leader Swami Prasad Maurya quit the SP.

As the SP figures out its party candidates and voter outreach initiatives while keeping the ‘PDA’ in mind — and at the same time tries to balance ally demands – this is why the SP has a task on its hands:

What is the PDA grouping? 

In June 2017, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav floated the acronym, standing in for ‘Picchde (backward classes), Dalits and Alpsankhyak (minorities)’ communities. When some upper caste leaders in the SP expressed the apprehension that this could send an exclusionary message to the upper castes and tribal communities, Akhilesh expanded the PDA definition ahead of the Assembly polls in October 2022. The ‘A’ in ‘PDA’, he said, also included “agde (forward)”, “Adivasi (Scheduled Tribes)” and “aadhi aabadi (women)”, cutting across all communities.

In Uttar Pradesh, as per the Hukum Singh committee set up in 2001 under then Chief Minister Rajnath Singh, Other Backward Classes (OBCs) account for 43.1% of the state population. Among the minority communities in the state are Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains, with Muslims making up the largest bloc, at 19% of the total population according to the 2011 Census. It placed the Dalit population at 23%.

Hence, on paper, the three groups under the ‘PDA’ which the SP is targeting comprise an estimated 85% of the state population, leading Akhilesh to boast that the ‘PDA’ will defeat the BJP-led NDA in the coming Lok Sabha polls. But while Muslims and Yadavs are an SP vote bank, it has struggled to attract non-Yadav OBCs while Dalits have traditionally voted for the BSP and now for the BJP.

How is SP going about PDA consolidation?

Festive offer

To promote its PDA pitch, the party is affixing the acronym to all its voter outreach campaigns. For example, the party’s Samajwadi Lohia Vahini wing organised a 6,000-km “PDA Yatra” covering 29 UP districts from August 9 to November 22 (party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav’s birth anniversary) last year. “We reached out to people coming under PDA and told them about the false promises that the BJP had made and the vision that the SP has for their empowerment,” Abhishek Yadav, national president of the Samajwadi Lohia Vahini, said. During the yatra, the party also advocated for a caste census.

Besides, the SP has organised PDA-linked pakhwaras, chaupals and jan panchayats, with similar objectives. Such programmes have generally involved the party’s minority, Scheduled Caste (SC) and OBC wings, with senior leaders including MPs addressing the events.

Why is SP facing internal backlash over PDA?

Swami Prasad Maurya resigned as SP national general secretary before announcing that he was quitting the party on Tuesday. The prominent OBC leader who was once a confidant of BSP chief Mayawati accused the SP of “discrimination”, and Akhilesh of “ignoring” the PDA communities. Maurya has been making controversial comments against the Ramcharitmanas; and the SP, wary of the backlash amidst the Ram Temple euphoria, has distanced itself from them.

Maurya’s exit followed days after former five-time SP MP Saleem Shervani resigned as a national general secretary, alleging Akhilesh was neglecting PDA communities. In his resignation letter, Shervani asked how the SP was different from the BJP in this. Shervani cited the absence of a Muslim in the SP’s Rajya Sabha list as an example.

SP ally Apna Dal (Kamervadi), whose core vote base are the Kurmis (an OBC group), has also raised issues regarding the SP list. Its chief and Sirathu MLA Pallavi Patel said she would abstain from voting in the Rajya Sabha elections, asking why the party had not picked members from the PDA groups. The three SP candidates are Ramji Lal Suman, a Dalit, apart from actor-politician Jaya Bachchan and former UP chief secretary Alok Ranjan, both upper caste Kayastha leaders.

Patel, who won in the 2022 Assembly polls on an SP ticket, also hinted that her party would not continue its alliance with the SP. However, later, Patel and other Apna Dal (K) leaders participated in the Congress’s Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi in Varanasi.

How does PDA figure in names announced by SP for Lok Sabha so far?

The first list of 16 candidates released on January 30 included 11 OBCs –  four of them Kurmis – along with one Muslim and one Dalit. Its second list of 11 candidates, released on Monday, had five Dalits, four OBCs, one Muslim and one Rajput. It released a third list on Tuesday, with five names.

The SP has also made changes to ensure a PDA-friendly state executive committee for UP. Announced last August, the committee includes just four Yadavs but 27 non-Yadav OBC leaders, in addition to 12 Muslims, and one Sikh and Christian each. While Muslims account for 17% of the team, SCs and STs together are 14%.

Has SP tried this before? 

The SP has come to power in past state polls when it has rallied the support of non-Yadav OBCs and Muslims. In the 2022 Assembly polls, for example, the party forged an umbrella alliance of six smaller OBC-based parties, and won 111 seats on its own, at a time when the BSP and Congress were reduced to 1 and 2. Later, however, two parties from that alliance – Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) – quit, and are now in the BJP camp.

This makes it extremely crucial that the SP expands its support base on its own. Party sources said that even if it does not pay off in the Lok Sabha elections, Akhilesh hopes to meet his goal by the time of the 2027 Assembly polls.


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