'Come Together, Do Not Divide Us'
First reactions from the minorities in UP after the Congress roadshow
LUCKNOW/DELHI: The media might have gone crazy with delight covering the Priyanka-Rahul Gandhi road show in Uttar Pradesh but the Congress party’s late entry into the electoral field has not provided solace for the most fearful community these days in the state. Harried and terrorised the minorities fear they have the most to lose, and all professionals--- teachers, lawyers, journalists--- spoken in Varanasi, Lucknow, Gorakhpur, Meerut just after the media show ended were agreed that this could spell “disaster” during the Lok Sabha polls where the Muslims were concerned.
A senior lawyer from Gorakhpur was categorical. “This road show has come too late, and all the Congress can do now is divide the vote. It will not win but in the chaos that can be expected from voters when they are too frightened, the alliance (SP-BSP) might be damaged,” he said. In his view the Congress has no presence on the ground and “these hawai (in the air rhetoric) promises mean little.” He incidentally is a Congress supporter who had just about made up his mind to vote for the SP-BSP.
A weaver from Varanasi with a flourishing business said, “these road shows mean little. You must be remembering the roadshow of Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi in Varanasi during the Assembly elections. Do you remember the crowds that followed them? And what happened? Modiji’s candidates won the seats.” In his view also the Congress could only damage the votes for the alliance and “that is why they must all come together. I still think they will.” A hope voiced, incidentally by many persons spoken to with several giving credence to rumours that there were behind the curtain talks going on for a tacit understanding between the opposition parties.
A journalist in Lucknow, excited about the Congress party’s entry into the electoral field with Priyanka Gandhi, admitted that there was need for BSP-SP and Congress to unite “even now.” According to her the Muslims are enthused about signs of a Congress revival, and would like to see this happen. “But not at the expense of the election please, they must realise that they will damage the opposition vote and the need of the hour is unity,” she said.
The Muslims in UP that had been openly happy about the SP-BSP alliance that Akhilesh Yadav said had at least got the “arithmetic right” are now becoming increasingly worried. As a senior politician of the SP said, “this worry will only grow as the campaign decibels increase.” There is a vocal section already in the community that is keen to vote Congress as it is a national political party and according to them in a position to lead a national coalition. There is a larger section at the moment that is clear about not shifting allegiance from the SP-BSP as “they will definitely win the polls, or at least have a far better chance than the Congress.”
Senior politicians in the state said that a terrified vote is easily disturbed, and pointed out that during the heat of the election rumours alone today could drive the minorities to scatter their votes. “This has happened in the last elections, and can happen again with too much faith in the tactical vote that is losing this capacity,” a political activist working with the opposition in UP said. He did not wish to be identified more closely having a finger in more than one political pie.
An old shopkeeper in Chowk perhaps got the last word in with: “come together, aisa bhi karna kisi ke liye accha nahin hai.” Interestingly, all still hold the hope that this will happen and that the opposition parties cannot be as foolish as to fight on two fronts against the BJP in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.