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.
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