By Ashutosh Pandey:
As the battle for capturing Uttar Pradesh hots up, political parties are firing their best shots to win the upcoming assembly elections. This is going to be the toughest and the most interesting elections in Uttar Pradesh since long. All four major parties — SP, BSP, Congress, and the BJP are vying for 403 assembly seats. However, smaller but effective political outfits such as Ajit Singh’s RLD and Dr. Ayub’s Peace Party are all set to disturb the calculations of bigger political parties. Winning U.P. has never been so difficult, yet never so easy.
Let us start with the ruling party, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Now, BSP is banking on its vote bank of Brahmins and Dalits. Dalits form 22% of the total population of the state and vote en bloc for the party. Brahmins, on the other hand, constitute just a meager percentage, but have been influential in all the elections due to their hold and supremacy in the state politics. BSP, under Mayawati, swept the 2007 assembly elections by following this unique and experimental Brahmin – Dalit combination.
In her latest attempt to woo Brahmins, Mayawati recently organized a Brahmin rally in Lucknow, which was attended by a large number of people. She also inaugurated Dr. Shakuntala Misra Rehabilitation University, named after a relative of Satish Chandra Mishra, her man Friday in U.P. She is shouting on top of her voice that she cares for Brahmins and upper castes. However, only the results would show whether or not she has been able to convince them.
Let us now talk of the Samajwadi Party (SP), headed by Mulayam Singh Yadav. This is probably the last chance for Yadav to establish his son Akhilesh Yadav in U.P. politics. The state unit of SP is headed by Akhilesh Yadav and he has been working hard ever since SP launched its campaign for the upcoming assembly elections. Mulayam is well over 70 and this might be his last “active” elections. That is the reason he is not leaving any stone unturned to ensure that SP comes to power in U.P.
SP’s vote bank largely comprises of Yadavs and Muslims, apart from OBCs and Thakurs. However, this combination was put to test in last assembly elections and failed miserably. MSY has tried to set his house in order by revoking suspension of Azam Khan, the controversial Muslim leader, who was suspended at the behest of Amar Singh.
By showing confidence in Azam khan, MSY has tried to woo Muslims, who have been backing him since long, especially after the destruction of Babri Masjid. Yadavs and Thakurs stand solidly behind the SP. But Yadav will have to try extremely hard to win back U.P. from Mayawati. SP is also advocating the implementation if Sachchar committee’s recommendations in U.P.
Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), led by Ajit Singh, is confined to Western parts of the state and is in no way hoping to form Government on its own. It has already formed an alliance with the Congress, which will largely help the Congress in the state. Ajit Singh is also looking to successfully establish his son, Jayant Chaoudhary, already an MP from Mathura, in the state’s politics.
The real trouble is for the “Yuvraj” of Congress. If he fails to put up an extraordinary show here in Uttar Pradesh, his claim for the post of PM would be highly affected in the negative way. Rahul Gandhi lacks political experience and U.P. knows it. Hence, he will have to work smartly and extra hard to make a difference.
Rahul’s strategy of giving prominence to “real” public leaders like Beni Prasad Verma might work in some pockets, but if he is hoping to win assembly elections, he might be day dreaming. Rahul Gandhi is excited by the large number of people attending his rallies, but to think that this crowd will translate into votes is politically foolish.
In fact, Rahul has more than one problem area to deal with. The infighting in U.P. Congress is well known. The rivalry between Rita Bahuguna Joshi, U.P. Congress State President and Pramod Tiwari, leader of the congress in U.P. assembly, is well known. To ensure good results, Rahul will have to end this.
Secondly, the meteoric rise of Peace Party might upset all his political calculations. Peace Party performed well in the last assembly elections and in subsequent by polls. The party came second and third in some assembly constituencies in the last elections. Peace Party enjoys large support of Muslims.
Then, there are some other parties such as Rashtriya Inquilab Party and All India Muslim Majlis that are fighting for the Muslim votes. They could be real spoilers to Yuvraj’s plans. As a matter of fact, BSP is trying hard to form a combination Brahmins, Dalits, and Muslims to ensure its victory. This is the exact vote bank that kept the Congress in power in U.P. for fifty years. BSP will give Rahul Gandhi a tough fight at each and every step in Uttar Pradesh. Mayawati has already spoken about giving 8% reservation for Muslims in jobs in the state.
Moreover, BSP has put all political parties on back foot by announcing the division of U.P. into four parts. Now, all the parties are in dilemma. Neither can theyÂ oppose Mayawati on this issue nor support her. Mayawati has already scored the first goal of the match. Now it is up to SP, Congress, and the BJP to match her first and then try to defeat her. Clearly, she is in the lead already.
The fight for U.P. was never easy and in these coming elections, it will be even more fierce. For Rahul Gandhi, road to the PM’s post lies in the dusty streets of Uttar Pradesh.
Ashutosh Pandey is a freelance writer and is associated with Association for Democratic Reforms.