SAGA CORNER

Can Akhilesh-Rahul break new ground in poll bound UP?

The coming together of the youthful Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi which appears to be on the cards can change the political dynamics in the country’s most populous state.

It can put the Samajwadi party-Congress combine in the driver’s seat as its patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav or Netaji as he is known is increasingly becoming irrelevant in the fast changing political landscape in UP. Once again the BJP is handicapped not having a chief ministerial face to project as evidenced two years back in Bihar. Banking solely on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to pull the chestnuts out of the fire as it were might not be easy. 

The lotus party seems to have alienated its supporters of small traders as well as the Brahmins. As the ideologue of the BJP, the RSS needs to realise the new realities on the ground and that 2014 is not 2017. Three years back in the general elections the BJP secured a majority on its own in the Lok Sabha for the first time since it was formed in 1980. Along with its allies the NDA crossed the rubicon of 300 finishing with a comfortable tally of 340 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha.

Since the November 8 demonetisation the small trader vote bank of the BJP is keenly looking for an alternative having been badly hit. The other backward classes on whom the BJP strategists were placing their bets are also having second thoughts. 

The SP-Congress combine has the portends of holding the trump card in the February-March assembly elections in UP. If the Mahagatbandhan sent the BJP packing in2015 in Bihar, one of the battleground states in the Cow belt, the SP-Congress combine can disturb the apple cart.

This assumes significance as the Muslims in particular want to vote decisively against the BJP. Numerically it has the largest Vidhan Sabha in the country with 403 seats along with contributing the maximum number of 80 seats in the Lok Sabha.

It is a do or die battle for the Lotus party in UP which can set stage for the general elections two years later in 2019. The Modi government needs to increase its seats in the Rajya Sabha where it is handicapped being in a minority. This has compelled the BJP led NDA at the centre to resort to Ordinances which has been decried by constitutional experts. 

Important legislation pertaining to economic reforms has invariably come up against a wall and fallen by the wayside in the House of Elders. The politically conscious electorate in UP is acutely aware of the complexities of the caste and class combination. 

Having burnt its fingers in Bihar, BJP strategists have tried a new social engineering aimed at turning the Lotus party into a non-Yadav OBC party in a bid to woo the most backward castes. This is bound to alienate the Brahmins as they don’t vote in sync with the OBCs.

Bahujan Samaj party’s supremo Mayawati seemed to have envisoned having the chance of becoming the chief minister for a record fifth time in Lucknow in the wake of the turmoil in the SP. Its chances of fructfying are receding with each passing day, thanks to a three cornered contest.

If the youthful Akhilesh and Rahul Gandhi coming together materialises, she realises she might have blown her chances. In a worst case scenario she is capable of transferring her Yadav votes to defeat the BJP.  

Realising she had lost the gambit in the 2014 general elections, her party’s votes got transferred to the BJP as people wanted a change of government at the centre. In the prevailing scenario, some analysts believe the saffron brigade and its strategists might well be committing harakiri.

At this juncture, Akhilesh and Rahul Gandhi want to throw up a fresh political alternative in UP the significance and importance of which cannot be undermined. Akhilesh has the support of more than 90 per cent of his party members. His clean image and being backed by the younger generation, he wants to concentrate on all round development direly needed in UP.

On his part Rahul Gandhi is endeavouring to recapture the Congress party’s vote bank of yore which had moved away to regional satraps. There are indications Rahul’s sister Priyanka Vadra Gandhi and Akhilesh’s wife Dimple might also be campaigning jointly in the state. 

The importance of Western UP having 77 seats in the assembly cannot be undermined. While the Muslims constitute 25 per cent of the population 73 per cent are Hindus. In 2012 the Muslims won 26 seats from this region. The Muzaffarnagar communal flare up in August 2013 claimed 46 lives and injured 93. It is a jat stronghold and the Ajit Singh factor of the RLD has been eroded over the years.

Polarising the votes in the 2014 general elections led to the Lotus party winning a mind boggling 71 seats out of 80, far beyond its own expectations and along with its allies finished with a tally of 73. The SP won five seats and the remaining two successful candidates were Congress President Sonia Gandhi from Rae Bareli and her son Rahul Gandhi from Amethi. 

For the BJP repeating that mind boggling performance in the ensuing assembly elections with Modi having completed half his five-year term might be both unrealistic and overestimating itself.

(T R Ramachandran is a senior journalist and commentator. The views are personal.)”

By TIS Staffer
the authorBy TIS Staffer

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