The Lull Before the Storm in Uttar Pradesh
LUCKNOW: Elections to the most crucial state expected to turn every political party’s wheel of fortune, Uttar Pradesh are barely 8 months away and all political parties are currently running around like headless chickens. More so the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata party that both do not have a Chief Ministers candidate to announce, and find their state units faction ridden and fairly unresponsive.
The Congress party that has outsourced strategy to whizkid Prashant Kishor is still searching for a CM candidate. HIs advice, according to sources quoted in the media, was to bring in a Brahmin leader to woo the old vote bank which has shown some sign of disaffection with the BJP since the last Lok Sabha elections. So former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit was asked. Her response was a predictable, No, Thank You. As the memory of being kept for a third time in the saddle in Delhi despite an assurance to take her into the Union Cabinet by Congress President Sonia Gandhi still smarts. As does the Congress party’s continuous effort to needle her, and keep her initial popularity within limits.
Bring out Priyanka Vadra, was another Kishor suggestion reportedly. No response from her, but it was enough to send Rajul Gandhi off to cooler climes for a holiday. He has still to return. Ghulam Nabi Azad is back as the UP-in-charge despite the general elections fiasco where the candidates selected by the old guard with Rahul Gandhi failed miserably. At that time several Congress leaders in the state had told visiting journalists that the choice of candidates had been absurd, and had gone against the party. Besides the Congress is keeping one eye fixed firmly on Bahujan Samaj party leader Mayawati for an alliance, and that might prevent it from announcing any one leader. However, the party has still to make up its mind whether it will be contesting on its own in UP or will seek a larger anti-BJP alliance as it did in Bihar.
The BJP is also looking for a CM candidate and like Bihar, is aware that naming any one could unleash the barely hidden factionalism within. Its strategy, such as Kairana, has not paid off as it did in Muzaffarnagar because of timely action by the state government. This time around the Akhlesh Yadav government seems a little more alert. The BJP is also looking for alliances with the smaller parties, but in UP the complexities within will make this an expensive exercise. The old Brahmin leaders like Lalji Tandon and Kalraj Mishra continue to be disaffected, and it remains to be seen who the party finally settles for. Or again like Bihar---and unlike Assam---it decides to project Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is after all a MP from Varanasi.
The two regional parties are clear about their Chief Minister. For the Samajwadi party it will continue to be Akhilesh Yadav, and for the BSP no one else but Mayawati. The Samajwadi hopes to counter the huge anti-incumbency factor against it by re-projecting Akhilesh Yadav who in these last few months is suddenly taking decisions without interference from his father Mulayam Singh and uncles. His stand on not taking the Ansari don into the party is a case in point, that SP leaders feel have helped the CM score many a brownie point. The traditional vote base of the SP has not moved sufficiently to disturb the top brass unduly and work is afoot to keep all voters in the young leaders harness.
Mayawati seems to be on a come back trail if the mood in Lucknow is any indication. Fed up with the lawlessness in the state, many expect the BSP to make headway again. Mayawati is recognised as a good administrator, although her party has suffered a defeat with a few exits such as that of Swami Prasad Maurya who is currently waiting to be courted from all accounts. She is working in the districts, quietly as always, but the BSP has yet to register a visible presence in UP at this point in time. The BSP supremo had lost a chunk of the Dalit vote to the BJP in the last parliamentary elections, and it remains to be seen whether she has consolidated it again.
All in all while the campaign has begun in UP already, lists of candidates are also out, all the political parties remain tense and unsure of where this state with its complicated permutations and combinations will go. No one party is sure of its vote bank right now, with communities and most castes in the state floating across invisible lines.
It is a period of lull, to be ignited after the monsoon session of Parliament