Roadshows Will Not Win UP
Where is the Congress organisation in UP?
LUCKNOW/NEW DELHI: Uttar Pradesh is the most crucial, and perhaps the most difficult and complex state, for political parties. The voter is a political animal able to reel off political facts at the drop of a hat. Political parties who know the state, are well aware of the fact that last minute politics no longer entices the voter in this large state of 80 Lok Sabha seats.
All political parties, except the Congress, have realised this. The Bharatiya Janata Party is working every hour of the day to keep its base together in UP. The Samajwadi party and the Bahujan Samaj party, despite being bitter rivals, started consultations for an alliance a year ago, to convince their cadres; and through byelections in the state (Kairana, Phulpur, Gorakhpur) explore the arithmetic of an alliance on the ground. The victory in these elections consolidated the experiment and the two parties came together to ensure their votes added up to a winning combination in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.
Instead of leaving UP to the regional parties, or at least stepping back with the humility of its couple of seats in the state, the Congress decided to step in as a third force where it was not required.It was almost a petulant reaction to the Mayawati-Yadav decision to announce the alliance, leaving Rae Bareilly and Amethi for the Congress, that the old guard was able to convince Rahul Gandhi amounted to an “insult”.
And upset the SP-BSP arithmetic in the process. In the usual knee jerk action that has kept UP out of the Congress grasp for decades now, the national party decided to ‘revive’ by bringing in Priyanka Gandhi and Jyotiraditya Scindia as the two general secretaries for the state. And followed this today with a road show j perhaps not even two weeks before the polls are announced.
The Congress still believes that road shows and glitz from the top will work in its favour. It did not in the last Assembly elections when Rahul Gandhi joined forces with Akhilesh Yadav in an alliance that did not convince the Samajwadi party to campaign for the visibly weaker Congress party in the state. And the BJP swept the state with ease.
The Congress, unlike the BJKP, SP and BSP, does not have cadres or an organisation on the ground. It does not have the workers to mop the votes, even if Priyanka Gandhi’s charisma works which also remains a big ‘if’ in this battle-fatigued state that has born the brunt of BJP violence over the past five years through lynchings, encounters and police action. The state is largely divided today between those who believe the Adityanath propaganda that the country is steps closer to becoming a Hindu state with UP being key to this agenda; and those who want unity and development and justice over and above everything else. Broadly speaking the two are divided between the BJP in the first instance, and the SP-BSP in the other.
The Congress revival rests on the hope that it will be able to poach the disillusioned vote from the two fronts. That essentially means the upper castes from the BJP, and sections of the Muslims and Dalits from the coalition. And in the process attract the voters who are sitting on the fence, and could be attracted by the charm on display. Unfortunately for any of this to happen a political party needs a strong organisation, at the booth and polling stations levels, with the ability to mobilise the voters to cast their ballot.
The Congress contested the Lok Sabha byelections that were won by the SP-BSP combine. Another indication that the party barely exists. Priyana Gandhi has camped and worked in Amethi and Raebareilly, including in the last Assembly polls, with the charisma not working even for the high profile Congress candidate Amita Singh, wife of the Raja of Amethi Sanjay Singh. The Amethi Assembly voters preferred Garima Singh, a BJP candidate and first wife of Sanjay Singh.
It remains to be seen whether the two new general secretaries of the Congress will be able to build an organisation that state presidents including current Raj Babbar and others including Salman Khursheed have completely failed to do.
The hope driving local Congress leaders is that sections of the upper castes, angry with the BJP for whatever reason, who might not have voted for the Congress if it was in alliance with the SP-BSP could be persuaded to do so now. It might be pointed out that these sections in UP are still enamoured of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and remain the focus for the BJP and its affiliates. The other hope, according to a local Congress leader, is that the Muslim vote might be persuaded to return to the Congress fold. This is stoutly denied by the Samajwadi party with a former minister making it clear “there is no question of this. Remember the Muslims have been hard hit under this government, and will not break ranks with the alliance that they know is a winning combination, for a last minute entrant in these elections.”
The general opinion in Lucknow at the moment, after the road show, remains that the Congress is the outsider. And that the electoral fight will be between the SP-BSP and the Rashtriya Lok Dal alliance against the BJP. As the former Minister, who happened to be a Muslim as well said, “the UP voters know who to support to defeat the BJP and at the most one can see the Congress reviving from two to five seats. We could have given them more if they had continued with the talks, and as part of the alliance these would have been a sure shot.”