As the 2024 general elections draw closer, Uttar Pradesh (UP) is turning into a crowded couch of strange bedfellows. It was William Shakespeare who said some centuries ago that misery is able to acquaint a man with strange bedfellows.

That seems so true of the way politics is practiced in UP today. Countless efforts are being made to forge the oddest of alliances between politicians as different to each other as chalk is from cheese. Politicians of different hues are on their toes, scrambling for a high voter turnout.

In order to win elections ‘upper castes’ are willing to rub shoulders with ‘lower caste’ communities. A Yadav is seen to befriend a Dalit, while the Left wing politicians are forced to warm up to Right wingers.

Take for example, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ally and Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) chief Om Prakash Rajbhar who is wanted by all political parties. “Yes, I have contacts with all political parties and if anyone calls, I definitely talk…” Rajbhar told the media. His importance is traced to his connection to the Rajbhar community belonging to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in east UP.

If this bonhomie was genuine and well intentioned, all alliances would be welcome. However, politics these days is reduced to a game of numbers. Both national and regional parties are focused on alliances with anyone not for humanitarian or ideological reasons but just for the convenience of increasing their respective vote share.

Voters Are Just Numbers

Voters are no longer seen as human beings but only as numbers. The talk is only about numbers as the Samajwadi Party (SP) refuses to give more than ten tickets to the Congress in UP. The largest populated state in the country sends 80 members to the Lok Sabha.

Once the Congress was all powerful in UP. Today, it has almost zero support amongst voters, and it is the SP that has emerged as the main opposition party.

The relationship between the Congress and the SP is ‘lukewarm’ at the moment. The Congress is often seen flirting with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) as well, to the SP's utter discomfort.

As for the Congress, the party lost influence in UP several decades ago. The infrastructure of the Congress on the ground has over the years dispersed. One reason for the repeated defeat of the Congress in UP is a disconnect of its leaders with voters at the grassroots.

Rahul Gandhi seems more interested in participating in politics in the southern states of the country. Priyanka Gandhi too has given up on UP, after failing to turn around Congress’ lost fortunes in the state.

Changing Of The Guard

Recently, Priyanka Gandhi stepped down as general secretary in-charge of UP. Ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the responsibility of UP has been given to Avinash Pande, 65, a name few are familiar with in Lucknow.

Pande’s career in politics began as a student leader. He was earlier in charge of the party in Jharkhand and has been a member of the Congress Working Committee (CWC).

Originally from Nagpur in Maharashtra, Pande is a lawyer by profession. His appointment in Lucknow was welcomed by UP Congress Committee (UPCC) president Ajay Rai. Rai claimed that the Congress would win the 2024 general elections under the guidance of the senior politician.

Both Rai and Pande believe that Priyanka Gandhi should become the Prime Minister one day. After Pande was appointed the general secretary in-charge of UP, he said that he was grateful for the confidence placed in him.

“Priyanka Gandhi ji, I resolve to build upon your legacy. As General Secretary in-charge, I will make the most of the authority invested in my position and the mandate given to me,” Pande said. His remark invited a citizen in a busy marketplace in Lucknow to quip that to build upon Priyanka’s legacy only means more defeat for the party in UP today!

She is said to have withdrawn herself from UP in order to leave the playing field for the SP chief Akhilesh Yadav in the distribution of tickets to contest the 2024 elections. Congress had wanted to contest 21 seats in UP, but has been offered about 10 while the SP will contest for 60 seats and it is not sure if the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Jayant Chaudhary’s request for 12 seats will be accepted, or not?

The Power Broker

The RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary is a power broker. He is a leader of the Jat community concentrated in west UP. Chaudhary is constantly wooed by different political parties.

To win over the votes of the Jats, the ruling party recently unveiled a 51-feet statue of Jat leader Chaudhary Charan Singh in Moradabad, an area with a strong Jat community presence. Jayant is Chaudhary Charan Singh’s grandson, and his RLD is part of the I.N.D.I.A. alliance of 28 political parties opposing the ruling party.

Today, the Jats vote in large numbers for the SP too. The RLD is on the same page as the SP because the SP supports reservation for Jats, wants cheap electricity provided to farmers, and for clearing sugarcane dues.

Whether it likes to or not, the ruling party keeps inventing new ways to appease the Jat voters. In the past the government had to roll back the controversial Farm Laws. More recently it dismissed the newly elected Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) that was supported by BJP parliamentarian Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. Singh, the former WFI chief who is accused of sexual harassment by women wrestlers.

Citizens Crave Peace

Watching politicians forming alliances with each other pleases the majority of voters. Most citizens crave for relative peace, harmony and togetherness in life.

That is why ordinary citizens were happy to see the Congress, SP and the RLD participate in a state-wide protest against the suspension of 146 Opposition parliamentarians from the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.

In Lucknow, the protest by different political parties held last Friday began separately. However, at some point members of all the different parties came together to raise the same slogans against the high-handedness of the government. That was a rare sight applauded by all peace loving citizens of the state.