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US political 'guru' Steve Jarding talks about Akhilesh Yadav and if the SP ship will stay afloat

Raza Naqvi @CatchNews


His clients include Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and former US vice president Al Gore. Now, Steve Jarding, lecturer at Harvard University, has taken up the challenge to hand Samajwadi Party its second consecutive term in Uttar Pradesh.

Jarding, who is a campaign manager and political consultant for the Democratic Party in the US, has been immersed in the task of ensuring that the ruling party doesn\'t lose ground in the much-awaited UP Assembly polls. His services are engaged with the party at a time when differences within the Yadav family are expected to hurt the prospects of the young chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.

Ever since he took charge, Jarding has been busy redesigning SP\'s publicity campaign and its welfare schemes. He has been spending time in the rural regions of UP to be able to access the issues that the state has been facing.

In this interview with Catch, Jarding talks about the basic \'mantra\' for SP\'s success and what will be Akhilesh Yadav\'s game changer in the assembly polls.


What is the present status of your campaign?


We are currently disseminating information on the schemes offered by the chief minister. In rural areas, people are not aware from where exactly they are receiving benefits; the schemes under the state government or the Centre?

We are working towards making our CM's message heard across the state, especially rural areas. Parties often neglect rural areas. But Akhilesh knows that these areas are important and need representation.

Talking to the people is very important, you have to talk to all the voters, whether they are with you or not.


How different is campaigning in India from abroad?


There's not a lot of difference when you see it in terms of working style. At the end of the day, when you are campaigning for an election, the basic thing is that you have to interact and deal with people, be it US, India or any other place in the world.

But there are some logistical problems; for example, you can easily disseminate information in the US, but in India, it is difficult to spread the word in some areas.

Steve Jarding (Photo: iese.edu)

Are you aware of the role of caste in India politics? What is more important to you, development agenda or caste based politics?


First of all, I respect the culture and people in India have their belief in caste, but in my opinion, development is something which is important for everyone. At the end of the day, people want development and they have their own set of expectations from the government. After a point of time, people don't care about caste if the government is providing them benefits. When you see the larger picture, development is what matters to voters rather than the issues of caste.


Will there be an impact on the Muslim vote bank in lieu of incidents like Muzaffarnagar riots and Dadri?


There's no denying that those incidents were tragic and I am quite respectful towards it, but I really don't think that those issues cannot be worked out. We are trying to talk about the vision of the CM; he has worked hard for the overall development of the state. People know that he is a good choice for them and will vote for him keeping aside the issues.

Also read:2017 UP elections: Here's why Muslim voters may desert the Samajwadi Party


CM Akhilesh has a clean image while we can't say the same about other SP leaders. How do you plan to retain the trust of voters?


The chief minister is proud of his record. His primary concern is to develop the state. Every time we meet, he updates me about the development plans he has for the state. His primary concern is the public.

His family is aware that he has a clean image. Some leaders maybe tainted, but the people know that it is their CM who is in charge, and he is a person with a clean record.


What is your take on the recent fallout between Akhilesh and uncle Shivpal?


I don't think it will affect the party. What I've experienced over the years is that everybody wants to win; nobody likes to lose, just because of their differences with someone.

Every family has their own set of differences, but in the end winning is what matters. The family knows that if the CM loses, everybody loses, so my take is that the family will stand united in order to perform well in the elections.


What's your take on the role of youth in the upcoming election?


I want more rural youth to be part of the election. I was highly impressed with the amount of energy these youngsters brought to the scene. The CM has also done a lot for their development and what I could assess is that they respect and love him. I really hope that they will play a role in the formation of a government.

Edited by Aishwarya Yerra

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Raza Naqvi @Mir_Naqvi

Raza is an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) and has worked with the Hindustan Times in the past. A passionate follower of crime stories, he is currently working as a Sub-Editor at the Speed News desk.