Soroor Ahmed analyses the electoral scenario in Uttar Pradesh where the poll is going to decide the political future of two men and two women.
The electoral battle in Uttar Pradesh is different in one significant way. Unlike four other states, here the poll is going to decide the political future of two men and two women. They are chief minister Yogi Adityanath of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Singh Yadav, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi and Bahujan Samaj Party supremo, Mayawati.
Though the political pundits are of the view that the main battle is between the two gentlemen in the fray yet much of their fate depend on the way the two ladies perform.
While for Priyanka Gandhi this is the maiden such campaign in which she – and not her mother Sonia or brother Rahul – is leading from the front. On the other hand Mayawati, though four times chief minister of India’s most populated state, is fighting for her survival after 38 years in the electoral politics, that is since the inception of the party in 1984. Though she unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha poll that year, she actually got elected for Parliament in 1989.
If Mayawati, the first Dalit woman CM of India, loses this time, it is most likely that she would simply fade away and her Bahujan Samaj Party may get transformed into the Brahmin Samaj Party as the Party, now under the national General Secretary, Satish Chandra Mishra is trying to win back the Brahmin votes (as it did in 2007). In the long term the Dalits may be the losers as Mayawati has not groomed any leader from this section of the society and Chandrashekhar Azad Ravan’s Azad Samaj Party is yet to emerge as a powerful outfit of the Scheduled Castes.
Curiously, both these ladies are primarily trying to woo Brahmins and Dalits’ votes. In 2017 Assembly election and 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha polls these two castes threw their weight behind the Bharatiya Janata Party. If both the Congress and BSP even marginally increase their share of votes from these two social groups, the sufferer would surely be the ruling saffron party and not the main rival, the Samajwadi Party. The latter, on the other hand, is hoping to cut into the non-Yadav backward castes’ votes of the BJP.
The BJP, on its part, is not in a position to compensate for the likely loss of votes of these sections of the society. In fact, in the western part of UP, it is feared, that the Jats may desert it in favour of the Rashtriya Lok Dal-Samajwadi Party alliance.
It is true that Congress is not going to make any impact on its own, but the strategy to woo women voters is likely to make a dent into the BJP votes, especially in places like Unnao and Hathras where Priyanka herself led the battle for the justice of rape victims. The Congress Party’s decision to give 40 per cent tickets to women is also being watched closely.
But the Congress has a long term gameplan. As Rahul appears to be a reluctant politician who has not yet emerged as the main challenger to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the party is trying to gradually promote Priyanka.
In the era of personality-centric politics where charm, glamour and oratory skill matter much more than any other quality, Priyanka seems to be in a better position to take on Modi on the national plain. So she is using Uttar Pradesh as a launching pad for the 2024 Lok Sabha poll.
Whatever the BJP may say about the dynasty politics, the truth is that this argument does not cut much ice as this is a global phenomenon. Whether it is the case of former Presidents George Bush Senior or George Bush Junior, or Governor Jeb Bush in the United States; PM Justine Trudeau or his father, Pierre Trudeau who served as the PM of Canada for four terms and Shinzo Abe or his father and grandfather of Japan all are the product of family politics. Not to forget about the Kennedys or Clintons in the US or William Pitt the Elder and William Pitt the Younger, both having served as PM of England in the late 18th century.
In contrast, the family connection had helped the GenNext to rise into prominence in many other countries of the world. So if Priyanka is really being groomed by her party, the Congress is certainly going to pose some challenge to the BJP in the days to come.
The BJP repeatedly uses the dynasty card just to please a handful of educated voters – many of them its voters who want to sound more ‘democratic’ than their brothers and sisters in the matured democracy of the West.
In contrast, the common masses see in Priyanka some quality of former PM Indira Gandhi – though it is also true that whether she is really like her grandmother or not is yet to be established.
Today the Congress may be down in the dump, but one needs to be reminded about the pre-2013 Bharatiya Janata Party which was passing through its worst phase since the 1984 debacle. The party’s patriarch Lal Krishna Advani’s graph had been constantly going down since his June 2005 praise of Mohammad Ali Jinnah during a visit to Pakistan. The party’s condition had got so much weakened that Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar kicked out 11 of its ministers on June 16, 2013 and snapped ties with it after 17 years long relationship.
Then in September 2013 the saffron party replaced Advani with the then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate.
Perhaps the Congress Party has realised that it is now time to go with Priyanka as Modi’s popularity is showing signs of decline. Anyway it would be too early to predict the outcome of the 2024 Lok Sabha poll.
If Yogi is defeated in the coming Assembly election, it would be a big blow to the BJP which sees in him as the future successor to Modi. And if he really wins, he may emerge as potential challenger to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who is in all practical purposes the number-two in the party’s hierarchy.
If Akhilesh loses, it may weaken his bargaining position within the party; but it would not be the end of the story for him as age is still on his side. Besides, he is the only leader in the opposition camp who can make a comeback.
However, if he really wins UP, his stature in the opposition camp would certainly improve. In that case he would emerge as a front runner among the regional satraps along with the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee who came out as a giant killer after defeating the BJP in the last year’s poll in her state. Now her monopoly would certainly be challenged by Akhilesh, who is much younger to her.