The Open Fields of Uttar Pradesh Will cycle sprint across or saffron colour it ?
The power play in Uttar Pradesh, the political cauldron of India, never ceases to amaze. The sudden yearning of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, when everything was going his way, to seek a pre-poll alliance with Rahul-led Congress, a sinking ship from all accounts, was puzzling. Why Akhilesh, unchallenged in the party or the government and in addition having an impeccably clean image needed a ‘hand’ to propel his ‘cycle’? That there was method in seemingly his madness to have a pre-election pact, Akhilesh obviously foresaw trouble in election from those whom he had outwitted to take control of the party. This is why he was desperate to have an alliance to widen the support base. But, how much Congress could improve his odds to secure enough seats to be able to form the government again is to be seen.
No UP-watcher gave Congress more than 10 seats. India Today poll gave the party four to 10 seats. This was a fair estimate. In the last election out of total 10 assembly seats in Amethi and Rae Bareli, the Congress won just two seats despite Priyanka Gandhi campaigning there for almost two months. Nothing has changed since then. The party has no cadre worth the name; there are no state leaders, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Raj Babbar, even the Chief Minister nominee Sheila Dikshit are unfamiliar to the people in the state. Rahul’s own record as poll winner is dismal.
What then made Akhilesh negotiate for an understanding with Rahul to fight the election together? The manner in which the terms were discussed, it seemed Akhilesh was desperate for support of the Congress. And Azad, a seasoned politician, sensed that Akhilesh was more desperate. So, the Congress took the high ground and said it was ready with the list of candidates for all the 403 seats and was prepared to fight alone.
The Congress façade of bravado could not conceal its anxiety to find moorings in the state. Nothing could be better for the Congress headed by Rahul, the ‘next’ generation of the Nehru-Gandhi Dynasty to link up with the SP headed by Akhilesh, who represented the ‘next’ generation of the Yadav dynasty. The pact term, which SP will give 105 seats to Congress, which means SP will have 298 seats, has been hailed as the confluence of Yamuna and Ganga. In a grand show of bonhomie Rahul and Akhilesh, in similar dresses, white kurta pyjama and black banddi, went round Lucknow in a procession, the route was charted to cover Muslim areas. Akhilesh hailing the alliance said that Congress and SP are two wheels of the cycle. The political analysts are so impressed by the pact that while saying a new direction is being given to polity, they say it is an unbeatable combination.
India Today, which earlier had said the BJP will win, later said that post the alliance political pendulum in India’s most important battleground state has started shifting away from the BJP and towards the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance. Where the pendulum rests will finally decide whether the BJP is able to cross the finishing line in the front or is trumped by the Akhilesh-Rahul combination.
Results of the final opinion poll done by Axis-My-India for the India Today Group show that the BJP has lost about 25 seats in UP between the previous opinion poll done in December and the latest one done in January. Axis-My-India predicts that the BJP would bag between 180 and 191 seats if elections were held right now. The SP-Congress alliance comes in close second, bagging between 168 and 178 seats. The biggest loser as a result of this alliance has been the Bahujan Samaj Party, which seems to have lost 40 seats between December and January. Two other polls aver that the SP-Congress combine will form the government, with BJP coming second. The glee in the Left and intellectual circles cannot be missed. But no pollster has taken into account the sabotaging by Akhilesh’s estranged uncle Shivpal Yadav and the threats by Mulayam Singh who is livid with his son for aligning with the Congress. In fact Akhilesh expected trouble from Shivpal and this is why he wanted to expand support base by an alliance with the Congress.
Shivpal has announced that he will form a new party on March 11, the day results will be out. “Aap dekh lena 11 March ka result… maine kaha…. ab tum jita lo, sarkar bana lo, tum sarkar banana…hum 11 March ke baad nai party banayenge (After the results are announced on March 11… I say… you win now and form the government. You form the government, we will set up a new party after March 11),” Shivpal said while addressing a rally at Numaish ground after filing his nomination from Jaswant Nagar on a SP ticket.
The threat came next, “Kahan jayenge humare log… jo lagataar mehnat kar rahe they… Sabko chunav ladne ka adhikar hai… Jisko jahan se ticket mila hai, waha se chunav lad rahe hain… (Where will my people go? Where will those go who toil hard… Everyone has the right to contest polls… Whoever has managed to get a ticket are contesting),” he added.
“Aur pehle to hum 19 (his seat goes to polls on February 19) tak apna chunav lad rahe hain… uske baad jo bhi hume bulayega, jo bhi humara samarthak hoga, jinko kinhi karno se ticket nahi mila, unka nimantran aayega to hum vichar karenge (After February 19 polls, whoever calls me… my supporters… who have not got tickets, I would think if they invite me to campaign),” Shivpal said.
Taking on the SP-Congress alliance, he said, “Jinki ghoshna ho gai thi 10 mahine pehle…. unki bhi ticket kaat di…. Batao ye Congress ke log jeetenge wahan? (Those who were named candidates 10 months ago, their tickets were also cancelled… You tell me, will Congress nominees win from there?)” He claimed that surveys showed that Congress would only win four seats in UP. Mulayam Singh has also urged that Congress candidates should be opposed. In such a scenario, the jubilation in the Congress camp is rather surprising. The only advantage from the pact will be that most Muslims will vote the SP-Congress combine and will veer away from BSP.
Presuming Akhilesh is able to transfer all Yadav votes (8 per cent) and Muslim votes (14 per cent), Congress candidates, opposed by dissident SP candidates, are unlikely to win many seats. Doubts have also been expressed over Akhilesh’s claims that he would win 250 seats, because of the “rebellious” and crafty Shivpal.
In any case, if one wheel (Congress) of the cycle comes off, it would not move. The verdict is yet to come out. But odds favour the party that will get votes from across the castes, from Dalits to Brahmins. No answer needed to clarify.
by Vijay dutt