The Samajwadi Party has roped in renowned political strategist, Harvard University professor Steve Jarding, to help with its campaign ahead of the 2017 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. The move comes after the Congress hired well-known strategist Prashant Kishore to run its campaign in the state, The Times of India reported.

Jarding serves as a campaign manager and political consultant for the Democratic Party in the United States. A public policy professor at Harvard and a political strategist since 1980, he had already been advising the Samajwadi Party on a number of subjects, but has now been officially enlisted. Jarding's clients include Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and former US Vice President Al Gore.

His first move in Uttar Pradesh was to rework the party's social welfare schemes, and he brought in actor Vidya Balan to endorse the SP's pension programme. He told The Times of India, "Samajwadi Pension Scheme has reached far and wide, but the problem is that the beneficiaries don't know whether it is a state scheme or central. So I suggested to the chief minister [Akhilesh Yadav] that the publicity programmes and campaigns be redesigned." He believes that Akhilesh Yadav has an "impressive connect with the youth" and people in rural regions.

Jarding's teams are surveying villages and passing on the feedback they collect to the chief minister to bring in improvements. He will also train party candidates on how to communicate with people of their constituencies and address issues. According to Jarding's initial survey, Akhilesh Yadav has a clean image in the state, which he believes "could be the game-changer".

News of Jarding's appointment comes amid speculation of a rift in the Yadav family. While both Akhilesh Yadav and Samajwadi Party President Mulayam Singh Yadav have denied any family feud and reiterated that they were united, Mulayam Singh's latest criticism of his son indicates otherwise. He said people of Uttar Pradesh had accepted Akhilesh Yadav as the chief minister because he was his son.