UP election: Why Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance is stumbling in Unnao block | assembly-elections$uttarpradesh-2017 | Hindustan Times
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UP election: Why Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance is stumbling in Unnao block

During election, all leaders claim that their party is winning. And that is why the assertion of an influential Unnao district Samajwadi Party block-level leader, who has to remain anonymous for it will cripple his future prospects in the party, is striking.

assembly elections Updated: Feb 19, 2017 08:37 IST
Prashant Jha
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi during a joint press conference in Lucknow.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi during a joint press conference in Lucknow.(PTI File Photo)

During election, all leaders claim that their party is winning. And that is why the assertion of an influential Unnao district Samajwadi Party block-level leader, who has to remain anonymous for it will cripple his future prospects in the party, is striking.

“Next time, in 2022, Akhilesh Bhaiya will come back with a majority.”

And what about this time?

“Yeh chunav gaya haath se, this election has slipped out.”

In that assertion of the SP local neta lies the story of why the Gatbandhan of SP and Congress is stumbling in the area where it was meant to do well.

Why Unnao should have been easy
In 2012, SP had won five of the six assembly constituencies in Unnao district, next to Lucknow.

It dipped to four when one MLA died, and the BJP bagged the seat in a by-election. Another MLA has now defected to BJP, and is contesting on its ticket.

This is also the district Akhilesh Yadav used to showcase his flagship Lucknow-Agra expressway scheme — eight fighter jets landed in Unnao last November to mark its opening.

The alliance with the Congress should have been the icing. In 2012, in each of the six constituencies, Congress got anywhere between 10,000 to 30,000 votes, which would now get added to the alliance kitty. And so this district, given past strength and the achievements, should have been an easy ride for the alliance.

Yet, the buzz in the district is that four out of six seats are now witnessing a BJP-BSP battle and in two, SP could possibly win.

One reason is anti-incumbency against local SP MLAs. The other is that in seats where BSP seems to be the most viable alternative to BJP, Muslims are shifting to the party. And the third is that in two of the seats that Congress is contesting, SP hasn’t invested in the contest.

Unhappy lot

Mohan is a reserved seat, bagged by the BSP in 2012. It now has a Congress candidate in the fray, representing the alliance. When a block-level leader and several village pradhans of different castes who have been with SP are asked, they are pessimistic.

“If this seat had been given to SP, we would have swept. Unfortunately, we have a weak Congress candidate. He hasn’t even approached us for help. Why should we help him?” asks the block leader.

When asked wouldn’t they help him because the battle is not just for the MLA, but for the CM, he said, “Yes. But in this seat, Congress will not win even if we help it. And we will be on the wrong side of the winning candidate.”

He added that this alliance is peculiar. “SP is being able to take advantage of the limited Congress votes, but despite us being the larger party, Congress is not being able to take advantage of our votes.” At his block office, a Muslim pradhan nodded and said that BSP - not the Congress - could defeat BJP here. A Thakur pradhan said he would have voted for SP, but the alliance for him was a ‘suicide note’ Akhilesh had signed. “Why should I vote for Rahul Gandhi?”

The block leader and pradhans may not be representative of the SP in a large and complex state as UP, but Unnao does highlight the challenge a alliance faces on the ground.