The inability of the Congress’s dynasty to turn the party’s fortunes in the country’s most critical state — and repeatedly so over the last many years
The most striking feature of the Exit Polls conducted by various agencies has been the wild fluctuation in its projection for the 80 Uttar Pradesh seats. While one organisation gave the Bharatiya Janata Party under 35 and the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance a thumping majority, another projected a near exact reverse. But most others predicted a split down the middle, with the grand alliance and the BJP sharing the spoils. If the middle ground or the pro-BJP projections hold true on the counting day of May 23, the following surmises can be made.
First, the grand alliance’s caste-based arithmetic failed to work on the ground. The causes of that failure could be several. For instance, transferability of votes between the SP and the BSP’s voters didn’t happen effectively. It would also be possible that the reverse polarisation of caste votes took place — if the Yadav, the Scheduled Caste and the Muslim votes coalesced around the grand alliance, the rest of them — the upper castes and the non-Yadav Other Backward Classes gravitated towards the BJP-led coalition as a consequence. There might also have been a sprinkling of the non-Jatav Scheduled Castes votes in the BJP’s kitty. In addition, the grand alliance’s hopes of attracting the Jat votes in western Uttar Pradesh did not fully materialise.
Whatever the actual outcome — and we don’t have to wait for long now to know the truth — one bare fact will remain unchanged: That of the decimation of the Congress in the State
Second, the BJP’s narrative of nationalism and soft Hindutva overwhelmed the grand alliance’s emphasis on the caste factor, and the belief that the so-called double incumbency of the Modi regime at the Centre and the Yogi Adityanath government in the State would work to its advantage did not pan out as expected. In other words, neither was there the kind of anti-incumbency that the two opposition parties had imagined nor could the caste equation cancel out the appeal of muscular nationalism.
Third, the voters were not fully convinced about the efficacy of the SP-BSP alliance, because they saw the two parties, till the other day bitter rivals, covering merely to oust Prime Minister Modi and not to offer the people of the State clearly defined policies and programmes. A similar result had been evident in the 2017 Assembly polls when the people rejected the suddenly formed coalition of the Congress and the Samajwadi Party. Soon after that drubbing, the partnership had ended. In case the new grand alliance fails to checkmate the BJP this time, it is quite possible that both the SP and the BSP will go their own separate ways. This will be especially true if it is learned that the votes of the two respective voters did not transfer. At least Mayawati will not hesitate to end the alliance in case she comes to know that the SP votes did not come to the BSP candidates — a possibility that cannot be ruled out given the animosity on the ground between the Yadav community and the Scheduled Castes.
In case the BJP and its allies manage to win even 45-odd seats, it would be considered an achievement given that it had battled the strong combined force of the SP and the BSP. The fact that this figure would be way below the 73 they had gained in 2014, would bring little discredit to the ruling party in view of the changed circumstances. On the other hand, if the grand alliance cannot gain the upper hand despite its strong arithmetic on the ground, it would have no excuses to offer — other than compromised EVMs!
Of course, things would be quite different in case the BJP faces defeat. More than anything else, it would be a victory of caste-and-religion politics, and the failure of the BJP to sell its ‘nationalistic’ narrative to the people at large in the State. It would also mean that the voters of Uttar Pradesh voted in a national election, keeping sectarian issues in mind.
But, whatever the actual outcome — and we don’t have to wait for long now to know the truth — one bare fact will remain unchanged: That of the decimation of the Congress in the State. Despite party president’s Rahul Gandhi’s aggression and the induction of Priyanka Vadra into the organisation and her efforts particularly in the eastern Uttar Pradesh, if the party is still looking to only holding Amethi and Rae Bareli and taking any additional seat as a bonus, then it might well stop dreaming of making a comeback in the 2022 Assembly elections. As of now, it’s simply nowhere in the picture.
Equally importantly, the inability of the Congress’s dynasty to turn the party’s fortunes in the country’s most critical state — and repeatedly so over the last many years — is certain to revive that one premise which the party finds both inconvenient and irritating: That Rahul Gandhi has failed as a leader. In such a situation, why would either an Akhilesh Yadav or a Mayawati even bother to entertain him?
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.