Are the Congress and the BJP on the revival trail in Uttar Pradesh, which sends 80 members to the Lok Sabha? The answer to that question is yes, though the still incipient trend may take a few more years to acquire a more concrete form.
There are signs that a section of Muslims (18 per cent of the electorate), who had abandoned the Congress in the wake of the demolition of the Babri Masjid, are returning to the party fold.
Senior advocate and former convener of the Babri Masjid Action Committee Zafaryab Jilani said: “Muslims no longer abhor the Congress. They have nothing against Sonia Gandhi. Thus, wherever the party is in a winning position, Muslims will support the Congress.”
This view is echoed by several other politicians and analysts in the state.
The Congress, which had dominated Uttar Pradesh till 1989 with its coalition of Brahmins, Dalits (then called Harijans) and Muslims, may, thus, see an important component of its erstwhile winning formula return, at least partially, to its fold. This will also dent SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s formidable Muslim-Yadav vote bank. Yadavs constitute around eight per cent of the state’s electorate.
As for the BJP, there are indications that the Brahmins (nine per cent of the electorate), a large section of which had aligned with Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) during the last assembly poll in May 2007, may be returning to the saffron party.
The BSP’s much-hyped social engineering — its outreach to Brahmins was a major part of that — which brought the party to power in 2007, will be tested in the ongoing four-cornered battle.
Chitranjan Mishra, former president of Gorakhpur University Teachers’ Association, said: “There has been no social engineering in eastern UP. It is the creation of the media.” BSP’s loss may thus be BJP’s gain. So, there is every indication that the two national parties may improve their vote share in the state. The Congress had won 12.04 per cent of the votes in 2004 and the BJP 22 per cent.
Will they also improve their tally of seats? Conventional wisdom has it that the Congress and the BJP will improve their tallies by 3-5 seats each. They had won nine and 10 seats, respectively, in 2004.
Several other factors — like the popularity of NREGS, the loan waiver scheme, Indira Awas Yojana and Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana — are also providing an impetus to this still incipient revival of the Congress.
And the BJP, propped up in part by the returning Brahmin vote, is set to benefit by default — as the so-called “secular” vote gets split between the Congress, the SP and the BSP.
However, neither the Congress, nor the BJP have the organisation on the ground to benefit fully from this incremental vote. For that to happen, both parties will have to rebuild their parties ground up. Rahul Gandhi’s decision to go it alone in UP (and Bihar) may, thus, pay rich dividends — but only in the long run.