The reason for the Samajwadi Party's (SP) defeat in the recently concluded by polls in the Azamgarh and Rampur Lok Sabha constituencies of Uttar Pradesh (UP) further clouds the future of progressive politics in the state. The present day Opposition parties have failed to understand how difficult, almost impossible it has become to defeat the ruling party now.

"Don't give up politics but the SP needs to take a break from contesting elections", says a disappointed supporter of the SP. Another SP supporter added that "Akhilesh Yadav is fast gaining the reputation of being a loser. His image is little more than the son of his fighter father Mulayam Singh Yadav who is now 82 years old and in poor health."

Supporters want to see Akhilesh Yadav standing before the bulldozers that are being used to destroy the home and hearth, mostly of political opponents. If the SP wants to change its fortune at the polls, voters want to see politicians fighting on the street in favour of justice for all citizens, not just this community or that minority. But what is the main opposition party in UP seen as doing instead? Unfortunately zilch!

Lo Ayaa Sawan

Meanwhile the real set of clouds have brought great joy into the life of people reeling under a heat wave for the past several months. Some rainfall was enjoyed by the parched earth of UP as a cloud broke, making people twirl in joy. Many a heart burst into recitations of Kalidas's Meghadoot from centuries ago, reviving ideas of romance, digging up more poetry, dance and song inspired by the monsoons. With the rainy month close at hand, to fresh katuja blooms he adds his plea and asks most courteously, that the cloud brings news of welfare to his love, words that she will understand.

And if the rains are here can the memory of Lucknow's ghazal queen Begum Akhtar be far behind? It is said that Akhtar's singing touched hearts because it rose up from all the sorrow that was buried in her soul. Before citizens were obsessed with cutting each other's throat, there was unprecedented collaboration between different talents in the region that had enriched lives. Akhtar learnt music from different gharanas. Writes Yatindra Mishra in Akhtari: The Life and Music of Begum Akhtar:

"Her voice was so imbued with pathos and rhythm that at one time the pain in her voice echoed the pain of every listener. Anyone who had suffered heartbreak and betrayal in life found refuge in Begum's voice. Until then the 'ghazal' was something that was only read – Begum Akhtar gave ghazal an identity and respectability by adding the dimension of singing to it. There came a time when every poet, expert or novice, yearned for Begum Akhtar to sing his creation." Kaifi Azmi had even confessed that he went back to reading and writing ghazals in order to get closer to Begum Akhtar.

Over time, the monsoons have influenced an entire repertoire of folk songs which Akhtar composed in classical music. The kajri in the Bhojpuri language is the most popular form inspired by the rains. The word kajri is from kajal the kohl that women use to line their eyes, their look as black and threatening as the dark clouds pregnant with rain.

Folk music brought communities together who enjoyed the bounties of nature in each other's company, singing in chorus the different genres of song like saawan, jhoola and viraha. My favourite monsoon song remains 'chaa rahi kaali ghata jiya mora lehraiye hai' which Akhtar first recorded in 1957.

More On Rajbhar

While still on the subject of folk music, countryside and nature Om Prakash Rajbhar merits mention. President of the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) Rajbhar is a key political ally of the SP. Born in 1962, Rajbhar emerged as a politician in the 1980s. He was a member of Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) till 2001. Then he fell out with the BSP and founded the SBSP in Varanasi. Rajbhar was successful at the polls only in 2017. A sitting member of the State Assembly from Zahoorabad in east UP, Rajbhar is a staunch advocate of an independent Purvanchal state in the eastern part of UP.

In the 2017 state elections Rajbhar was in an alliance with the ruling party and out of the eight seats that he contested he won four. He left the ruling party after he was refused a ticket to the Lok Sabha elections in 2019.

In Zahoorabad, Dalit voters number around 70,000, Rajbhars number around 70,000, there are 30,000 Muslim voters, and 45,000 Yadav voters. Then, there are 30,000 Chouhan voters and 30,000 Rajput voters, with Brahmin and Vaishya voters, respectively, comprising 25,000 and 20,000 of the electorate.

In the Purvanchal the Rajbhars, a backward community is about 18 percent of the population. It is all the above communities that Rajbhar has managed to convince to vote for him. How Rajbhar's popularity amongst the most marginalised communities in the poorest region of the state cuts across caste and community lines is something SP chief Akhilesh Yadav needs to learn.

After the crushing defeat of the SP in Rampur and Azamgarh, Rajbhar has been very critical of the SP chief, Akhilesh Yadav. He said that the leader of an organisation cannot isolate himself within the four walls of his home. As an ideal political ally he would like to see Akhilesh Yadav on the streets in preparation to fight the ruling party on all accounts of injustice. This will only boost the morale of the cadres and benefit the SP and its political allies.

Rajbhar promises to get Akhilesh Yadav out of the comfort of his home. He vows to contest the 2024 Lok Sabha elections in alliance with the SP and to together fight for justice and for the cause closest to the heart of the poorest of the poor on the streets of the state and not only on Twitter. More power to Rajbhar who was once a scooter driver on the streets of Varanasi.