For BJP, Cong, Uttar Pradesh election a dress rehearsal for Lok Sabha polls
A good show in Uttar Pradesh assembly polls will come as a big boost to BJP, Congress.india Updated: Nov 03, 2016 10:55 IST
For the two national parties – the BJP and the Congress – the Uttar Pradesh election is crucial not only to make their presence felt in the state where they have been relegated to the margins by regional outfits but also because the outcome will set the tone for the Big One – the 2019 general elections.
The BJP leaders insist that winning Uttar Pradesh is high on their agenda, but a defeat would be a worry, as the state has been crucial to its sweep of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Of the 80 Lok Sabha seats – the highest for any state – the BJP won 71. The state is due of elections early in 2017.
According to the BJP’s assessment, 2019 national election would be easy if it retains its gains in Uttar Pradesh and recovers lost ground in the neighbouring Bihar, where it took a beating in state polls within months of winning 31 of the state’s 40 Lok Sabha seats. The two states together account for 120 Lok Sabha seats.
The BJP leaders are of the view that the Congress is at its weakest as Rahul Gandhi has failed to make an impact, while the opposition is demoralised and fragmented.
One big reason for the BJP’s loss in the Bihar election was the coming together of the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Congress and smaller parties as the grand alliance.
Uttar Pradesh’s ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) that walked out of the alliance at the last hour is now desperate for such a tie up and has its reasons to seek partners.
First, the party is battling a damaging power struggle in the first family that may cost it the support of Yadavs and Muslims, who have traditionally gone with the SP. Though Yadavs have by and large remained loyal to the party, about 23% deserted Mulayam Singh Yadav in the 2014 polls in favour of Narendra Modi, who went on to be the Prime Minister.
Second, anti-incumbency is also staring the SP in its face. The government is battling charges of corruption and questions are also being raised on the law and order situation.
Third, Mulayam, who turns 77 later this month, has not as yet given up on his Delhi dream. He knows SP, a regional party, will have little relevance in national politics if it is not part of a coalition.
Mulayam’s brother and confidant Shivpal Singh Yadav recently met JD(U) leader KC Tyagi in Delhi where Congress strategist Prashant Kishor was also present. Kishor, who has been at work in Uttar Pradesh, later met Mulayam.
“The JD(U) has been a pioneer of anti-BJP politics. We checkmated their growth in Bihar and will repeat our performance in Jharkhand where an alliance between the JD(U), RJD, Congress and Jharkhand Vikas Morcha of Babu Lal Marandi will ensure the BJP’s victory march is stopped,” Tyagi said.
He agreed that dislodging Modi in 2019 would not be possible without defeating the BJP in Uttar Pradesh.
“It’s time the SP took the lead in the state and the Congress joined hands with an open mind,” he said.
The sticking point, as in the past, in such an arrangement could be the share of seats. Political experts are of the opinion that the Congress should ask for more seats in the Lok Sabha elections and give the SP a larger share in assembly polls, as its main interest lies in ousting Modi and installing party vice-president Rahul at the Centre.
But, there is a huge trust deficit between the SP and the Congress. Mulayam, after promising support, left Sonia Gandhi to fend for herself when she staked claim to the government and handed over to the President a list of 272 MPs in 1996.
Mulayam fears an erosion of Muslim support if the Congress revives in the state.
A senior SP leader, who didn’t want to be identified, voiced party’s concern quoting former chief minister the late HN Bahuguna: “Never transfer your base vote as it will never return to your party fold.”
Mulayam had even said in the Lok Sabha that the SP could fulfil its wish of ruling the Centre with Congress’ support. But, two years – from 2017 to 2019 -- is a long time.
As of now, barring chief ministerial claimants Akhilesh Yadav and his nearest rival Mayawati, all other parties and their leaders are gearing up for the Big One in 2019.