Maya, Akhilesh seek re­gional lead­er­ship for na­tion

The Sunday Guardian - - THE BIG STORY - CON­TIN­UED FROM P3

ACongress emerg­ing vic­to­ri­ous from the Gandhi bas­tions of Rae Bareli and Ame­thi. While declar­ing that both the part­ners would be con­test­ing 38 seats each, Mayawati and Akhilesh kept the door open for post-poll ad­just­ments by agree­ing that nei­ther party would set up a can­di­date in Rae Bareli or Ame­thi. In all prob­a­bil­ity, the re­main­ing two seats would go to Ajit Singh and his son Jayant Chowd­hury. The for­mi­da­ble coali­tion would pose a ma­jor chal­lenge to top BJP lead­ers in­clud­ing Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, should he de­cide to seek a re-elec­tion from Varanasi.

Elab­o­rat­ing on the rea­son of not in­clud­ing the Congress in the pre-poll ar­range­ment, Mayawati said that the Congress did not, so far as UP was con­cerned, bring much to the ta­ble, thereby send­ing a re­al­ity check to any push for Rahul Gandhi to be PM in 2019. The im­pli­ca­tion of her as­ser­tion was that both the SP and BSP by shar­ing their sup­port bases were in a sturdy po­si­tion to thwart the BJP’S am­bi­tions get­ting re­alised through caste and re­li­gion based pol­i­tics.

The pre-poll al­liance comes shortly after the two par­ties suc­ceeded in trounc­ing the BJP in the Lok Sabha by­elec­tions in Go­rakh­pur, the strong­hold of cur­rent Chief Min­is­ter, Yogi Adityanath, and Phulpur, rep­re­sented by his deputy, Ke­shav Prasad Mau­rya. While mak­ing the dec­la­ra­tion, Akhilesh al­lowed Mayawati to do most of the talk­ing. He made it clear to his sup­port­ers that he would not tol­er­ate any in­sult to Mayawati and would take it as a per­sonal af­front. Akhilesh’s stance was to erase mem­o­ries of se­ri­ous dif­fer­ences the two par­ties had de­vel­oped after com­ing to­gether un­der Mu­layam Singh Ya­dav and the late Kan­shi Ram, to defeat the BJP in 1993, when the Ram Jan­mab­humi move­ment was at its peak. Mayawati and Mu­layam Singh Ya­dav did not see eye to eye and the for­mer es­caped a mur­der­ous as­sault in the mid 1990s, at a guest­house, when at­tacked by SP goons.

The tie-up en­tails that while on one hand the BJP’S over­all num­bers in Par­lia­ment could come down dras­ti­cally and on the other hand, the Congress party too would have to cur­tail its am­bi­tious Upa-based in­ten­tions. The Congress may have to strug­gle to reach the three-fig­ure mark in Par­lia­ment. The de­vel­op­ment is con­sis­tent with Mamata Banerjee’s for­mula of al­low­ing the strong­est par­ties in each state to counter the BJP so as to end saf­fron rule in the coun­try. Mamata has been all along main­tain­ing that in­di­vid­ual plans of par­ties had to be curbed for the larger ob­jec­tive.

The pre-poll dec­la­ra­tion would put Rahul Gandhi in a se­ri­ous dilemma, since he is un­der tremen­dous pres­sure from his sup­port­ers to go it alone in UP and some other states, such as Delhi and Pun­jab. If he de­cides to con­test all the 80 seats in the state, in­clud­ing from places where the party has no base, he would be seen in the larger con­text as as­sist­ing the BJP, by di­vid­ing the anti-bjp vote, thus de­vi­at­ing from the com­mon aim of dis­plac­ing Naren­dra Modi as Prime Min­is­ter. How­ever, if in the event he chooses to con­fine his ap­proach to con­test­ing a limited num­ber of seats, he would be sus­cep­ti­ble to crit­i­cism of not ob­serv­ing the ba­sic blue­print for the suc­cess of a post-poll Ma­ha­gath­band­han.

The prob­lem in the Congress, as the pos­si­ble al­lies view it, is that after the suc­cess in the three Hindi heart­land states, the party high com­mand has started to over­reach, with­out ac­knowl­edg­ing the fact that there is an ab­so­lute paucity of an or­gan­i­sa­tional base. Within his own party, Rahul Gandhi has made cer­tain de­ci­sions that have a siz­able chance of back­fir­ing. For in­stance, by declar­ing chief spokesman, Randeep Surjewala, a rel­a­tively younger Jat as the party’s nom­i­nee from Jind in the by­elec­tion from Haryana, he in­ad­ver­tently sent a sig­nal that Surjewala could be his pre­ferred choice for Chief Min­is­ter­ship of the state sub­se­quently. Surjewala, who saw this op­por­tu­nity as a for­ward move­ment, now finds him­self in a sit­u­a­tion where he would ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fi­culty in win­ning the pre­dom­i­nantly Jat seat—the big­gest opposition com­ing from within his own party. How­ever, if he man­ages to come out un­scathed from the elec­toral bat­tle, he could oc­cupy the po­si­tion in Haryana pol­i­tics.

The BSP-SP al­liance has also thrown open the ques­tion of the Opposition lead­er­ship pro­vided the BJP was voted out. By virtue of be­ing the largest Opposition group, the Congress would ex­pect to ac­quire that po­si­tion. In the UPA era, it mo­nop­o­lised both the Prime Min­is­ter­ship as well as the Cabi­net Com­mit­tee on Se­cu­rity port­fo­lios. In the emerg­ing po­lit­i­cal sce­nario, it would be con­sid­ered a po­lit­i­cally cor­rect decision if Rahul was to an­nounce that he was not an as­pi­rant for Prime Min­is­ter­ship in 2019 and the col­lec­tive wis­dom of the anti-bjp par­ties would de­cide the nom­i­nee, if such an even­tu­al­ity arose.

Mayawati and Akhilesh have played an in­sight­ful hand at pol­i­tics rel­e­gat­ing the Congress to a marginal po­si­tion in UP. This could be a tem­plate on which other re­gional par­ties, bar­ring the NCP, might build their strate­gies on.

So far as the BJP is con­cerned, the SP-BSP al­liance would im­pede its on­ward march in UP thus pos­si­bly de­priv­ing it of crit­i­cal num­bers. It is dif­fi­cult to imag­ine the BJP repli­cat­ing its stellar performance in sev­eral other states where it had man­aged to win all the seats or with an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity. The BJP would have to al­ter its plan and take into ac­count the rel­e­vance of re­gional play­ers and par­ties, should it lose its ma­jor­ity yet seek a re­turn to power.

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