SP grappling to choose new leader of opposition in UP assembly

| | Lucknow
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SP grappling to choose new leader of opposition in UP assembly

Thursday, 13 June 2024 | PNS | Lucknow

With Akhilesh Yadav deciding the retain his Lok Sabha seat and his subsequent resignation from the membership of UP assembly, the Samajwadi Party is now grappling with the task of choosing a new leader of the opposition in the state assembly.

With his resignation from the assembly, Akhilesh Yadav has ceased to be the leader of opposition in UP assembly.

The SP’s best performance prior to the 2024 parliamentary elections was in 2004, when it had won 36 Lok Sabha seats under the leadership of party founder and then chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav. In the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, SP won 37 seats out of 62 it contested.

Sources in the SP said after the party’s stellar performance now in the just concluded parliamentary elections, the priority of Akhilesh Yadav was to take the Lok Sabha mandate forward and ensure that the support of the people was retained in the 2027 UP assembly polls too. They added, “The SP now needs a leader of opposition in the UP assembly who can effectively replace Akhilesh Yadav.”

Political observers say that the SP currently lacks an aggressive orator among its legislators in the UP assembly who can react quickly and counter the government on the floor of the House on various issues when required. Also, the party lacks a tall leader like Akhilesh, behind whom the MLAs would always rally.

While the SP’s senior-most leader Mohammad Azam Khan was disqualified from the assembly following his conviction in a case, former party MLA Ram Govind Chaudhary, whose tenure as the leader of opposition from 2017 to 2022 was seen as “exemplary” in the party’s history, lost the 2022 polls. Chaudhary was known for being vocal on important issues and was also well-versed with the rules of the House.

The most experienced SP legislator in the current UP assembly is Lalji Verma, a six-time MLA who was one of the most senior leaders of the Bahujan Samaj Party in the House before his switched to the SP ahead of the 2022 polls and won the Katehari seat. However, he will also resign soon as MLA as he has now won from the Ambedkar Nagar seat in the Lok Sabha poll.

With another prominent leader, Manoj Kumar Pandey, switching to the Bharatiya Janata Party during the Lok Sabha elections, the party is likely to choose its new leader of opposition from among its senior legislators including Shivpal Singh Yadav (Etawah), Mata Prasad Pandey (Siddharthnagar), Indrajit Saroj (Kaushambi), Ram Achal Rajbhar (Ambedkar Nagar), Ram Murti Verma (Ambedkar Nagar) and Ravidas Mehrotra (Lucknow).

Akhilesh’s uncle Shivpal Yadav is a seven-term MLA who served as the leader of opposition between 2009 and 2012, but he is not seen to be a good orator, while Rajbhar and Saroj, like Verma, were in the BSP and had served as ministers in the Mayawati government but have not made their presence felt in the current assembly.

Mata Prasad, 81, was speaker of the UP assembly during Akhilesh’s tenure as chief minister between 2012 and 2017. He is seen as a good orator but does not attend the House proceedings regularly, given his age.

As the leader of opposition, Akhilesh has led the opposition’s attacks on the Yogi Adityanath -led BJP government. He has been involved in several heated debates with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, which often culminated in personal attacks from both sides. Despite such exchanges, however, the UP assembly has also witnessed long discussions involving Akhilesh and Yogi Adityanath.

A no-holds-barred exchange between Akhilesh Yadav and Yogi Adityanath took place in February last year over the killing of lawyer Umesh Pal, a witness in the 2005 BSP MLA Raju Pal murder case. Jailed don Atiq Ahmed, who was shot dead along with his brother two months later in April, was accused of plotting the attack on Umesh Pal.

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