Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)
Two states, two parties
Punjab and Uttar Pradesh show why the BJP remains dominant and the Congress weak
In recent weeks, political observers have been treated to yet another demonstration of the contrasting working styles of the two main national political parties, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The context may have been different, but in both Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Punjab, strong chief ministers (CMS) were under fire. In Punjab, it was more friendly fire, and in UP, while there was criticism from within, this was supplemented by visible discontent among a section of citizens. Both states also go to the polls in early 2022, and, at least till earlier this year, both CMS, Punjab’s Amarinder Singh and UP’S
Yogi Adityanath were expected to help their parties return to power.
Yet, the management of the political dynamic in the two states could not have been more different. Punjab has seen a strange situation of a popular 79-year-old CM having to explain himself to a party that is such a pale shadow of its former (and glorious) self that it should be grateful to have leaders that can deliver it states. Based on media reports, including in this newspaper, it appears that at least some of those arrayed against Mr Singh have the support of the party high command, despite the possibly adverse implications in the polls. Indeed, Punjab’s Opposition, all at sea a few months ago, must be cheering the happenings in the Congress camp. In some ways, this is not very different from the way the Congress treated Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who might have well delivered it Haryana in 2019 had things played out differently.
In contrast, in UP, where the CM has come under fire for his handling of Covid-19, including by some of his own party leaders, and where old Thakur vs Brahmin identity politics seemed to be raising its ugly head again, the BJP has acted quickly. The leadership of the party (including the prime minister, home minister and party chief) and its ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, have met; and both sent separate teams to Lucknow. The party has clearly decided to back Mr Adityanath for the 2022 polls (although surprises cannot be ruled out). The link between working style and outcomes in politics isn’t as clear as it is in business, but it does exist. Recent events in Punjab and UP may well explain why the BJP remains India’s political hegemon, and the Congress a minor player in national politics.