Sunday, June 23, 2024
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Congress still to emerge as an alternative

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Caste equations changing in UP

By Harihar Swarup

Caste equations have been fast changing in the run up to Uttar Pradesh assembly elections scheduled to be held early next year. Interestingly, the Brahmin- Muslim electorate, which enabled Mayawati to get a massive mandate, has moved away from the BSP. The social engineering done by Mayawati’s confidant, Satish Mishra, had showed spectacular results in the last assembly elections but he is now missing from the poll scene and so Brahmins and Muslims; the two communities are no longer with Mayawati.

Her Dalit vote bank, however, remains intact. According to a senior BSP MP, nobody has yet been able to penetrate this fortress. If the Dalit citadel remains undamaged, nobody can easily defeat BSP. One wonders if riding on the back of Dalits only, she can muster a majority in the state assembly. She may, in that event, emerge as single largest party, requiring support of other parties to cobble up a majority.

Which that party could be? There is no question of Mulayam Singh supporting her. Going by past experience, the BJP will think twice before extending its hand of friendship to Mayawati. Having vigorously campaigned against “corrupt” Mayawati government, one wonders if the Congress will dare extend support to her. If the Congress does so, it would look like its leaders eating back their words. The Congress will look most opportunistic if even it thinks of extending support to Mayawati.

Now the question is; whom Brahmins and Muslims will vote? Unlike previous elections the Brahmin votes have moved away from the BJP except those of trading class. Muslims too are not so solidly with Mulayam Singh, having been disillusioned with the Samajwadi Party.

Indications are that Brahmins and Muslims may, this time, like to give a chance to the Congress. Muslims generally throw their weight on the winning side. If they feel the Congress candidate is winning, they will vote for him. If Mulayam Singh’s candidate is forging ahead, they will support him. Unlike Mulayam Singh, the Congress has no organization; nor the party has cadre. The Congress—Ajit Singh tie up will play an important role in Western Uttar Pradesh, accounting for about 122 assembly seats. About 50 seats are likely to be left for Ajit Singh’s party and the Congress will put up candidates on the remaining seats. Ajit is likely to be inducted in the union cabinet as part of the alliance.

Mayawati played a gamble by attempting to divide UP in four smaller states; was able to push through a resolution to this effect in the state assembly. But the gamble appears to have failed; it has not made much headway; nor it evoked much response. The resolution was adopted amidst din without voting and the assembly was then adjourned sine die. On a matter of the importance of splitting the state, a proper debate should have taken place followed by voting. But this was not done and the resolution was pushed through in a huff. Without proper voting the resolution is, evidently, infructuous and the centre may not take its cognizance. There appears to be no chance of the issue of four-way split of UP becoming an election issue. As a matter of fact, the issue has turned out to be non-starter, having been rejected by Mulayam Singh, BJP and the Congress. Rahul has been working very hard in UP and his campaign is having desired impact but there is practically no organization in the state to carry forward his message. This is the tragedy of the Congress. Rahul has not been able to take an issue to its logical conclusion, despite his sincerity. Today the Brahmins, who created a mood in favour of the BSP in 2007 Assembly elections, are keeping their counsel; the Muslims are divided. The Congress’ chief drawback is that neither of the community believes it will form the next government in the state.

In 2009 general elections, the Muslims were annoyed with Mulayam Singh for having made a pact with the original Hindutva icon. Kalyan Singh, shifted their votes to the Congress. The result; the Congress surprised everyone by securing 22 out of 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state, ahead of other parties. Today Mulayam Singh has broken with Kalyan Singh and apologized to the Muslims; and the Congress, Muslims say, has implemented neither the Sachar Report nor the Ranganath Mishra committee’s recommendations on reservation to the community. Inept handling of the Anna Hazare issue, high prices, Rahul’s inability to sustain an effective campaign, focused on farming issues, the lack of an organization and failure to win the favours of Muslims, is keeping the Congress down in UP. The question now is : can the Congress reverse any of this before the polling day to its own advantage.

Indeed, across western UP, this is the complaint; Rahul has gene, he has no baggage, and clearly “ cares for the poor” but he lacks staying power. He flits into the state, takes up an issue, but is unable to sustain it. Indeed, if he had kept the focus on the issue of just compensation for farming land, and other issues concerning farmers, the party might have been in a position to give Mayawati a run for her money. After all, he had made an impact both in Tappal and with the farmers of Bhatta Parsaul, near Greater Noida.

Twenty two years back the decline of the Congress in UP began and it has now faded out of the state. Muslims and Dalits that used to ensure a winning combination for the Congress till 1989 moved away from the party. With the coming on the scene of Rahul Gandhi, one can see some light at the end of tunnel. Let us see how much ground the Congress gains in the coming elections. (IPA Service)

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