“Dilli ki satta ka rasta Uttar Pradesh ke galiyraon se hokar guzarta hai” (The path to power at the Centre passes through the lanes of Uttar Pradesh); this wisdom seems to be apply now as it would then. It's true for all the aspiring parties in the upcoming UP elections, where the biggest part is Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), already ruling the state. The regional parties like Samajvadi party(SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party(BSP) are confined to the state and presently they need to stitch alliances which is a mandatory factor to take on the mighty BJP in UP.
Congress party, however, is in a pitiable situation as it lacks an effective structural base and is devoid of a charismatic leader; though there seems to be a ray of hope for the party after the entry of Priyanka Vadra who has already caught the attention of people after ferociously raising Hathras rape case, farmers' issue.
BJP-RSS combine faces one of the toughest tasks of retaining power in Uttar Pradesh which will set the tone for another national battle vying for a third time to see Narender Modi again as prime minister after winning parliamentary elections in 2024. The buzz and murmur is around upcoming young dynast leader, Priyanka Vadra who may be face of the Congress in UP polls to challenge Yogi Aditya Nath. Congress has got twin purpose in projecting Priyanka in UP. First, rejuvenating the organizational structure in the entire state which has been almost wiped out after the emergence of BJP, and strengthening of regional outfits like Samajvadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) etc. Second, Congress is having a long spell of a complete void of an effective leadership which may be filled by Priyanka this time. She has already targeted women voters by announcing 40 percent tickets to women (63.25 percent) who had outnumbered men (59.5 percent) in 2017 assembly polls in UP which had helped BJP owing to Modi’s several welfare schemes like free gas cylinders, Swadhar Greh, Training and employment programme etc.
As per data, Mayawati got support of men (49.35 percent) whereas lower percentage of women (41.92 percent ) voted for her party in 2007 assembly elections which has undergone a sea change in about a decade and half in 2021. One can image the psychology of majority of Indian politicians who have blocked a bill seeking 33 percent women reservations in parliament and state assemblies which was introduced during the United Front government of HD Deve Gowda on Sept 12, 1996.
In this dismal scenario, Experts believe that Priyanka’s initiative may act as silver lining to her party which has got its popularity at the lowest ebb in UP. It is interesting to note that 63.26 percent had cast their votes in 2017 assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh thereby exceeding the men besides adding a new dimension, flavor and zest to the society in a typical caste ridden state which is also heavily loaded with the worst type of dominance of patriarchy, misogyny, discrimination and male chauvinism.
Contrary to it, Mayawati has been ‘tamed’ by central government due to possible raids etc by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials who had detected illegal cash deposits worth over Rs.104 crore in an account belonging to the BSP in Dec. 2016, after the imposition of the ban on Rs 1000 and Rs 500 currency notes by Reserve Bank of India. Officials also unearthed Rs 1.43 crore deposits in an account in a branch of United Bank of India in New Delhi, belonging to party Supremo Mayawati’s brother Anand Maywati. She now refrains from vehemently criticizing BJP to keep the chances for any future tie-up alive with saffron party though she has started wooing Brahmins who seem to be upset with Yogi Government which is being accused by rivals of giving preference to Rajputs.
Contrary to it, all eyes are on Samajwadi Party chief, Akhilesh Yadav, who has started the negotiations with smaller parties though the chances of having any poll tie-up with Congress seem to be remote as it had not yielded desired results in 2017 assembly elections.
Political observers opine that Akhilesh can emerge as challenger to BJP which can be attributed to his party’s performance in recently concluded Panchayat polls. The SP leaders claimed to have backed 1500 of the victorious ones out of 3050 contestants to elect Zilla Panchayat ward members. The BJP came up with a list of candidates for all the 3050 seats and some agencies gave the figure of 900 seats to BJP (a loss of 2150 seats) and the SP a little more than 1000 seats. More to the point, the BJP forfeited its strongholds such as Ayodhya, Varanasi, Lucknow and Gorakhpur to the SP.
Experts say that Akhilesh needs to re-energize the party workers and revive Muslim-Yadav estranged combination. Secondly, he must put his house in order and stitch up alliance with smaller parties. BJP is bound to attack him on the Hindutava plank besides accusing him of being Pro Muslim which does create an impact in the society. Akhilesh and Jayant Chaudhry of Rashtiya Lok Dal had come together in 2018 by-polls and wrested all three seats from BJP including Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairna besides Noopur assembly segment. This combination can be fruitful in western parts of Uttar Pradesh where RLD has got jat support due to late Chaudhry Charan Singh.
Now all parties are poised to focus on UP elections which can prove as a rare opportunity of revival to depleted party like Congress. Besides, the possible waterloo to Yogi Nath who has convinced his powerful high command about retention of power in Uttar Pradesh.
K.S.TOMAR is a national columnist and political analyst based in New Delhi