As we are getting close to the announcement of election dates for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, the preparations are at its peak. Activities are taking place in the party offices, which had been deserted after the last elections in 2012. The loyal leaders and workers have begun to change their party according to comfort. Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) made Keshav Prasad Maurya, a Lok Sabha Member of Parliament from Phulpur as its state president in Uttar Pradesh in April, 2016. Samajwadi Party (S.P.) and Bahujan Samaj Party (B.S.P), the other two major political parties in the state will go with the same leaders. But in an unprecedented move, the top leadership of the Congress has declared Sheila Dikshit as the Chief Ministerial candidate in one of the biggest elections in the upcoming year.
According to reports, it was Prashant Kishor, the poll strategist for Congress, who wanted Sheila Dikshit to be the face of Congress in Uttar Pradesh. She was the first choice, leaving behind number of leaders. Congress hired Prashant Kishor, the invincible election strategist of Indian politics. Prashant Kishor had two big wins (he led the campaign for Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar) and has started social engineering in U.P.
It is evident that when it comes to Uttar Pradesh, it’s all about caste. It is usually believed that upper caste voters have always remained loyal to the BJP. But now, Congress is moving away from what is believed to be its traditional voter base of backward castes and Dalits to the Brahmins and Thakurs. But Congress is not the only party after these castes. BJP is usually considered as the party representing the upper castes.
Due to some of the policies of the Congress a pro-poor image of the party has been created. Schemes like National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and the Right to Food Act is proof of this. According to the 2011 census, Brahmins constitute 10 % of Uttar Pradesh’s population.
Two things will decide the fate of Sheila Dikshit and Congress in U.P. The first is the kind of impact Prashant Kishor will be able to make in the state. In the same state and across the country, he helped BJP to sit on the throne after BJP labelled Congress as corrupt and made various other allegations against the party during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. It would be pretty difficult for him to bring about a change overnight and manipulate the masses. Recently released opinion polls conducted by ABP News and Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) predicts that the more than 130 year old party will get seats somewhere between 8 and 14. There is an urgent need for the party to change its strategy.
The second thing is the political image of Sheila Dikshit. A First Information Report (FIR) is registered in Delhi against her and she is alleged to have been involved in various scams during her 15-year tenure as the Chief Minister of Delhi. In these times, everyone is aware. People have seen the rise of Arvind Kejriwal, which was made possible due to allegations of corruption against her.
So, what kind of message is the Congress trying to give? Though the charges against her have not been proven, she is viewed by many as someone who is corrupt. There are several other leaders who would have been a good candidate for the Congress. Priyanka Gandhi would have been a good choice but the Gandhi family doesn’t want any of their members to remain only a regional leader. If Kishor can clean Sheila Dikshit’s image through his campaign and strategy and foster confidence in the mind of the people in the party, then it is possible for Congress to govern the state from Lucknow from 2017.