With an eye on the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav on Thursday held a "cycle yatra" here to raise issues such as price rise, unemployment, farm laws and crime rate.
Though "cycle yatras" were organised across the state at the tehsil-level to mark the birth anniversary of veteran socialist leader Janeshwar Mishra, the purpose, political observers say, was to galvanise the party ahead of the elections early next year and woo Brahmin voters.
Before pedalling down the streets of the state capital, Yadav told reporters at the Samajwadi Party (SP) headquarters that his party will win 400 seats in the assembly polls.
"I was saying that we will win 350 seats. But seeing the anger of people, I can say we can now win 400 seats," the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister said. Uttar Pradesh has 403 assembly seats.
Flaying the BJP government in the state over the management of the COVID-19 pandemic, Yadav said, "I condole the death of all those who died during the second wave of the coronavirus."
"The government did not help those who lost their family members. It could not arrange oxygen and medicines and left people to die," he said.
Targeting the BJP for allegedly inducting criminals, Yadav said that as elections are nearing, the saffron party has put its ideology on the back-burner.
"Party has not read its election manifesto (of 2017). Now it is concentrating on 'money-festo'. The BJP has no work culture and could do nothing in the past over four years except renaming projects of the previous SP regime," he charged.
The BJP has made Uttar Pradesh the number one state in terms of number of malnourished children, custodial deaths and disposing bodies in Ganga river, Yadav alleged.
Taking a swipe at Yogi Adityanath, he said that as the chief minister did not know how to operate a laptop, he did not distribute it to children.
"He (CM) must not be knowing about DNA and its full form. You (media) persons can go and ask him," he said when asked about laying the foundation of a forensic science institute in the state capital.
Yatras, which covered 5-10 km in all districts, were taken out to protest the "anti-people" policies of the ruling BJP, price rise, unemployment, farm laws, rising crime and to demand release of jailed leader Azam Khan, the SP said.
It said the cycle rally in Lucknow covered 6.5 km.
Cycle is the SP's election symbol and laying of cycling tracks along important thoroughfares, especially in the state capital, with demarcations painted red and green (colours of the party flag) has often incurred the wrath of its political rivals.
The SP also plans to take out a 'Rath Yatra' in the state in October which will cover almost all the 75 districts of the state.
It recently concluded a series of meetings with the workers of over 300 of the 403 assembly constituencies. During these meetings, the names of probable candidates for assembly segments were also discussed.
The party has made it clear that it will not have an electoral alliance with any of the major parties.
However, it is open for alliance with smaller parties, Yadav had told PTI in a recent interview.
In Kannauj, Akhilesh Yadav's wife and former MP Dimple Yadav flagged of a cycle yatra.
Addressing SP workers, Dimple Yadav said that the BJP government was "anti-development".
"Since the BJP government was formed in the state all development works have stopped. A number of schemes that were started here (in Kannauj) were stopped and there are many projects for which the government did not release funds," she said.
"To hide its failure, the government is lodging fake cases," Dimple Yadav said, adding that people are suffering due to price rise.
Making light of the "cycle yatra", Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati said the SP is now remembering late Janeshwar Mishra after the immense success of her party's intellectual conferences.
This move by the SP is aimed at gaining cheap popularity, she alleged.
Mayawati's remarks come as her party is also trying to bring the Brahmin community in its favour ahead of the polls.
BJP MP Jagdambika Pal said that for the past over four years, Akhilesh Yadav was "working from home" and never came out on the road on issues of public interest. But with approaching assembly elections, he has resorted to this "gimmick", the MP alleged.
Asked about the SP's cycle yatra, Congress Uttar Pradesh president Ajay Kumar Lallu said,"The people of the state know that Congress has fought for their cause in the past four years. We were on roads raising their issues. Though the SP is the main opposition party, it was Congress which stood with people on every occasion."