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Will the Uttar Pradesh poll battle spell the end for the “old socialists”?Stalwarts of the 1980s’ socialist movement such as Rashtriya Janata Dal’s (RJD) Lalu Prasad and Janata Dal (United) president Nitish Kumar have been rendered irrelevant in the ongoing campaign for the state assembly’s 403 seats.At a recent Samajwadi Party (SP) rally in Muslim-dominated Saharanpur — as also at several other gatherings across the state — party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav’s name was not even uttered once from the podium.Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, the face of the emerging brand of “neo socialism”, spurned offers for a pre-poll tie-up with Kumar’s JD(U) and Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD). Nor has he invited leaders of regional parties such as HD Deve Gowda of Janata Dal (Secular) or former JD(U) president Sharad Yadav.“Worldwide trends indicate a rise of the right-wing communalists. The decline of the socialist alternative model has been rapid. If at all a neo-socialism brand has to emerge and survive, the ideology will have to stand on the legs of performance and governance issues,” political scientist C P Bhambri said.Caste and identity politics in the Hindi heartland state has remained in a state of churn. Lalu Prasad, a prominent leader of the Yadava community in neighbouring Bihar, has not been considered hot property by the SP’s election managers.“Lalu, together with son Tejaswi, have been keen to campaign for the SP-Congress alliance in eastern UP, but an invitation has not yet been sent,” sources said.Kumar, who had worked hard last year to rustle up vote banks of the Kurmis and Koeris, abruptly decided to withdraw from the UP poll battle, abandoning plans to establish national footprints for the JD(U), which now neither supports nor opposes any political formation in the state“Regardless of what the election outcome is, the UP poll battle will spell the political death of the old socialists,” observed a veteran UP watcher.