A Heavy Blow

The Sa­ma­jwadi Party has emerged vic­to­ri­ous in Ut­tar Pradesh while the Congress Party has taken a hard hit. This may not bode well for the 2014 gen­eral elec­tions.

Southasia - - Front page - By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

How will the elec­tion re­sults of Ut­tar Pradesh frame the new

po­lit­i­cal game in In­dia?

On March 15 2012, Akhilesh Ya­dav, 38, from the Sa­ma­jwadi Party (So­cial­ist Party) was sworn in as the new chief min­is­ter of Ut­tar Pradesh. In do­ing so, he be­came the youngest chief min­is­ter of the state in In­dia. While poll re­sults played out as pre­dicted, many an­a­lysts were not ex­pect­ing a sweep­ing Sa­ma­jwadi vic­tory.

Ut­tar Pradesh is of ut­most im­por­tance for na­tional pol­i­tics. The state con­sti­tutes 80 seats in the Loksabha and is fa­mous for pro­duc­ing the ma­jor­ity of In­dia’s prime min­is­ters. With a con­sid­er­able in­flu­ence on In­dia’s polity, UP serves as the bas­tion of the Nehru Gandhi dy­nasty. The polls were an­nounced at a time when the cen­tral gov­ern­ment was al­ready reel­ing un­der tremen­dous pres­sure on the cor­rup­tion and Lok­pal is­sue. The Lok­pal bill could not be passed in the up­per House of the Par­lia­ment as the rul­ing Congress nei­ther con­sti­tutes a ma­jor­ity nor the sup­port of the coali­tion mem­bers of the UPA.

Pend­ing bills that need to be passed in the Ra­jya Sabha will now find it dif­fi­cult to gain ap­proval as po­lit­i­cal equa­tions turn frag­ile and pos­si­bil­i­ties of switch over by var­i­ous re­gional par­ties in­crease. There al­ready mur­murs of a third front be­ing de­vel­oped by all re­gional par­ties, which are not in fa­vor of ei­ther Congress or BJP. Of course, there are lo­cal com­pul­sions to each state and there­fore the two ri­val par­ties will not be able to join any one front.

The Congress Party in the cen­tre had ex­er­cised its weight in Ut­tarPradesh. The fact how­ever is that the polity in Lucknow is sharply po­lar­ized and the dom­i­nant Brah­min com­mu­nity is now po­lit­i­cally marginal­ized though so­cially it still calls the shots. Both, the Sa­ma­jwadi Party of Mu­layam Singh Ya­dav and the Bahu­jan Sa­ma­jwadi Party lead by Mayawati, rep­re­sent the vast ex­pec­ta­tions of the marginal­ized peo­ple of Ut­tar-pradesh.

Though Mu­layam Singh claims to be a so­cial­ist fol­lower of the 1960s Veteran so­cial­ist leader, Dr Ram Manohar Lo­hia, his party is es­sen­tially led by the Ya­davas: a peas­antry com­mu­nity. Mu­layam Singh Ya­dav has also been very clear about his sec­u­lar cre­den­tials and has spent some time pla­cat­ing ortho­dox Mus­lim cler­gies like the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid.

Mayawati was po­lit­i­cally groomed by her men­tor, late Kan­shi Ram, whose world­view re­volved around Dr Baba Sa­heb Ambed­kar, the fa­ther of the In­dian Con­sti­tu­tion, hail­ing from the for­merly un­touch­able com­mu­nity, pop­u­larly known as the Dal­its.

The Congress Party’s man­agers wanted to project Rahul Gandhi for the 2014 gen­eral elec­tions as the Congress’s choice for prime min­is­ter. The party de­pends heav­ily on re­gional par­ties who reg­u­larly put pres­sure on the gov­ern­ment. Congress had sev­eral min­is­ters from Ut­tar Pradesh in the Cen­tral Cab­i­net who were given the task to build up the tempo for Rahul Gandhi. As promised, these min­is­ters used their clout in the state to rally sup­port and votes.

In the 2009 gen­eral elec­tions, Congress won 22 Lok Sabha seats from Ut­tar Pradesh against all ex­pec­ta­tions and the party pub­licly boasted that its Rahul ex­per­i­ment has suc­ceeded though ev­ery­one knew that the Congress party’s or­ga­ni­za­tion lay in great sham­bles. The Party re­fused to ac­cept the iden­tity polity of the state where the Dal­its and peas­ants con­tinue to seek rep­re­sen­ta­tion and par­tic­i­pa­tion in power.

Rahul Gandhi ag­gres­sively cam­paigned in the state and blamed both Mayawati and Mu­layam Singh Ya­dav for the ills of the state. Ex­ploit­ing Mayawati’s elec­tion sym­bol of an elephant, Gandhi would of­ten re­mark, ‘Lucknow me ek bahut bada haathi hai jo ghass na­hee paise khata hai.’ But such cam­paign­ing boomeranged be­cause he did not an­swer his own party’s track record. Peo­ple would ques­tion what his party has done to erad­i­cate cor­rup­tion in last 60 years. In­stead of pre­sent­ing a de­fense, Rahul blamed both Sa­ma­jwadi and Bahu­jan Sa­ma­jwadi party for all that was bad in Ut­tar Pradesh.

The congress ruled the state till 1989 till marginal­ized com­mu­ni­ties be­gan to in­flu­ence Ut­tar Pradesh in the af­ter­math of the Man­dal Com­mis­sion Rec­om­men­da­tion due to which, V.p.singh’s gov­ern­ment col­lapsed. The BJP with­drew sup­port from the gov­ern­ment they were not al­lowed to per­form car­seva at Ay­o­d­hya to pro­tect the Babari Mosque in Oc­to­ber 1990. The Mus­lims of Ut­tar Pradesh never for­get the du­bi­ous role of Congress party de­spite the fact that Congress went loud on the is­sue of job reser­va­tion for Mus­lims, amongst other things.

With such ef­forts in place, the poll re­sults were a se­vere per­sonal blow to Rahul Gandhi and a strong jolt to Congress’s plan to ap­point him as Prime Min­is­ter. The Congress Party now has a bleak chance to fair well in Ut­tar Pradesh un­less it joins in al­liance with BSP but that would be dif­fi­cult and chal­leng­ing in the near fu­ture.

Mu­layam Singh Ya­dav is now be­com­ing a ral­ly­ing point for var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, look­ing to of­fer an al­ter­na­tive to both Congress and the BJP in the next gen­eral elec­tions. While the Congress and BSP would like to de­lay the process as long as pos­si­ble, forces like Mamta Ben­er­jee and Mu­layam Singh Ya­dav would def­i­nitely want to en­force a midterm poll so they can in­crease their tally and be in a po­si­tion to head the next gov­ern­ment or a part of it.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha elec­tions when Congress needed the sup­port of po­lit­i­cal par­ties, Mu­layam Singh Ya­dav was ready to pro­vide sup­port. How­ever, he was vir­tu­ally hu­mil­i­ated by the Congress and was made a per­so­n­anon-grata. Sim­i­larly, when Mayawati and the BSP of­fered their sup­port, Congress shunned them de­spite re­al­iz­ing that con­trol­ling Ut­tar Pradesh was es­sen­tial. To counter po­lit­i­cal ri­vals, the cen­tral gov­ern­ment then did its best to pro­vide var­i­ous grants to places like Bun­delkhan where farm­ers were com­mit­ting sui­cide or to the weavers of Ba­naras who were also squeez­ing un­der heavy debt.

Un­for­tu­nately, Congress’s gam­ble to se­cure the 2014 elec­tions un­der Rahul Gandhi did not pay off. Mu­layam Singh Ya­dav will now play a much larger role at the cen­tre while Mayawati will re­build her party to pre­pare for the next polls in Ut­tar-pradesh. Ut­tar Pradesh has clearly voted Congress out of its mind and it will take a con­certed ef­fort and de­vel­op­ing strong state lead­er­ship for the party to even think of rul­ing the state again.

The other con­tenders: Rahul Gandhi and Mayawati

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