Almost half way through the UP assembly elections, Congress workers and in-house analysts continue to waver between uncertainty and hope about the party’s prospects.
As the party’s chief campaigner, Rahul Gandhi has, with his roadshows, brought the crowds for his party and made the Congress a talking point in the elections. "But the question is whether we will be able to translate them into votes," said a senior leader.
Officially, the Congress does not go by opinion surveys and exit polls even if they show an upward graph for the party which is yearning to play the role of a kingmaker should the UP polls throw up, as pollsters predict, a fractured verdict
The Congress, which has had to start virtually from the scratch, had lost its deposit in 354 seats in the 2002 assembly elections. It had won only 25 seats at that time but was left with just 16 when the legislature party split. Ten of these seats fell in areas that went to polls in the first three phases of elections. This time, the party hopes to touch the 50-seat mark and perhaps even more as part of its long haul to rebuild itself in the state.
"We hope to do well in UP this time because of Rahul Gandhi’s campaign and the issues he raised, the strategy of turning the UP elections into a "Congress versus others," and the disenchantment among the "base-vote" of other political parties which are looking for an alternative," said Mohan Prakash, member of the AICC media committee team for the elections in Uttar Pradesh, Goa and Gujarat this year and for the poll-bound states in 2008.
The party’s hope and uncertainty is reflected also in the exit polls for the three phases of elections in 177 of a total of 403 assembly seats. NDTV gave the Congress 4-8 seats out of the 57 that went to polls on Wednesday that, if projected across the state, would translate into 35-45 seats. In 2002, the party had got only four in the region considered SP Mulayam Singh Yadav’s bastion because of the 32 percent muslim population. Star News gave the Congress 4 seats only and a overall projection of 27 seats—just two more than what it had won in 2002. Both polls showed the SP slipping and the BJP and the BSP improving their tally.
Significantly, while lashing out at the SP’s "misrule" and the BJP’s "communal and divisive agenda," Congress leaders have spared the Bahujan Samaj Party with which it might strive to explore a post-poll tie-up if they get enough seats and if no party secures a clear majority. The "if" no longer seems as big as it once appeared since all exit polls have predicted a hung assembly so far.