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Not a Big Deal

Posted on June 30, 2010 in Politics

Shikhar Singh:

That the Congress has a problem accommodating its leaders in the Rajya Sabha has been the subject of media conjecture for some time now. But that it would take the shape of a formal understanding between the Congress and Ajit Singh’s RLD has come as a surprise to several.

It is known now that the Congress is working overtime to recapture lost political space in Uttar Pradesh. The 2009 Lok Sabha elections confirmed this as the party trumped rivals BSP and SP to emerge as an important player in state politics (and after the Firozabad by-election, had maximum MPs from Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha). If that election marked the revival of the Congress, it was also a bumper harvest for Jat strongman Ajit Singh, whose alliance with the BJP worked disproportionately well for him (winning him 5 Lok Sabha MPs).

In the time elapsed since, the Congress has made public its intention to wean away Ajit Singh from the NDA fold. This strategy has a dual objective: firstly, to contain BJP’s alliance-based growth strategy in the state and secondly, to create a winning combine in Western UP with the help of RLD’s core constituency (the Jat community). Both these objectives are central to the revival strategy put together by the Congress Party.

The proof of the pudding is in its eating– and that is exactly what I propose to do in this article by analyzing the effect of an alliance between the RLD and Congress on the 2009 Lok Sabha result. I have examined the effect of the alliance in each of the 25 seats in Western UP and made some elementary calculations which indicate that a Congress-RLD alliance would electorally benefit the constituents (enhancing their seats), adversely affecting the BSP and the BJP but not really amounting to a game-changer in UP politics.

Graph indicating the 2009 Lok Sabha Election Western UP result (left) and the projections for Western UP factoring Cong-RLD Alliance

Fighting separately, the Congress and RLD won 8 of 25 Lok Sabha seats in Western Uttar Pradesh. However, if the two had fought together, they would win 10-13 seats. While the alliance would strengthen the two parties, it wouldn’t amount to a formidable combination in the region–even if it were to perform exceeding well and win marginal seats, it would win 13 of 25 seats. On the contrary, if the alliance moderately performed it would win 10 seats– barely improving on the 2009 tally and scarcely reclaiming political space from the BSP and SP.

Therefore, evidently the alliance is not a game-changer in UP politics. At the same time, it is not a tactical blunder either, for it effectively raises Congress’ position in the region from a small fry to a dominant, if not foremost, player.

Interestingly, the RLD only marginally benefits from the alliance (increasing its tally by 2 seats in the best scenario), the bulk of the gains going the Congress’ way. This is because the RLD, essentially a party dependent on the Jat vote-bank, may have already delivered its best performance in the 2009 elections. Analysts add that in the long run, the obsession with Jat politics would only limit the RLDs political growth (something apparent in this case). For the Congress however, the RLD brings an additional constituency of voters to its already expanding base– thus leading to an improved performance.

While the gains tell one story, the swings offset by the alliance make for equally interesting study.

Analysis of the swing offset by the alliance

The negative effect (in terms of seats) due to the Congress-RLD alliance on the BSP, BJP and RLD has been illustrated above. There are four observations here:

First, the BSP is the affected the most by a Congress-RLD tie-up as it loses 4 seats (two each to the Congress and RLD). Given that a bulk of the 19 BSP MLA’s in the current Lok Sabha have won from Western UP, this may be a cause of worry for Mayawati (for had a Congress-RLD coalition contested the 2009 election, her party would have won only 16 seats in the Lok Sabha).

While the BSP suffered due to the alliance arithmetic, it also made some gains from the RLD– though this may be a one-off but a Congress-RLD alliance would mean a loss of 1 seat for RLD (Hathras) which the BSP may take.

The BJP would also suffer if its alliance with the RLD broke-up. However, contrary to expectations, the party wouldn’t be the gravest affected, losing only 2 seats (one each to Cong and RLD). What is to be noted is that Ghaziabad (constituency of Rajnath Singh, former BJP president), may be one of those losses.

However, the most interesting observation is that a Congress-RLD alliance would leave the SP untouched– the latter wouldn’t win/lose any additional seats. This in some sense reflects the ineffectiveness of the alliance in containing an important player like Mulayam Singh.

In conclusion then, the benefits of a Congress-RLD alliance are not overwhelming and clearly the costs of engagement would determine whether any such arrangement is worth it. If the RLD plays hard ball (insisting say that Ajit Singh should be made Agriculture Minister– something entirely expected given their past track-record), the Congress should really rethink its move. Clearly, a Congress-RLD pact is a smart way to circumvent the Rajya Sabha problem, even a promising development in the revival strategy but far from being the centerpiece of any such plan.


The following Lok Sabha constituencies were part of this study: Saharanpur, Kairana, Muzaffarnagar, Bijnor (SC), Nagina, Moradabad, Rampur, Sambhal, Amroha, Meerut, Baghpat, Ghaziabad, Gautam Budhha Nagar, Bulandshahr, Aligarh, Hathras (SC), Mathura, Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Firozabad, Mainpuri , Etah, Badaun, Aonla, Bareilly.

The writer is an undergraduate student at St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi and an old-boy of The Doon School (ex 46 H ‘08).  An avid follower of politics and international affairs, a keen debater and a regular contributor to student journals, currently, he is also the student editor of the Wall Street Journal India Debate. He blogs regularly at Everything Politics.

[Reproduced from Shikhar’s Blog]