The Congress believes that its tally in the civic polls in Uttar Pradesh would have been much higher but for Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav's move to scuttle its chances by ensuring the Bharatiya Janata Party's ((BJP) victory in several seats.
Party leaders, who have often alleged a secret pact between the SP and the BJP, allege that wherever the Samajwadi Party (SP) sensed a Congress victory it transferred its vote to the saffron outfit. This, they say, is evident in seats which the Congress lost by small margins.
Jitin Prasada, who represents Shahjehanpur in the Lok Sabha, alleged that the SP fielded a Muslim candidate in his area in order to polarize the election. The presence of a Muslim candidate prompted a Hindu consolidation behind the BJP.
In this backdrop, the civic polls may not turn out to be a reliable "dipstick" for the UP assembly elections in early 2007.
Firstly, there is the question mark over the BJP's performance. Secondly, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)—which allowed its members to contest as Independents—has yet to show its hand.
In the coming days, the Congress will analyse the civic poll results in which it read its own revival. Its vote share leap-frogged from 11 per cent in 2001 to 27.30 per cent now, pushing the SP to the third position with 20 per cent votes. In 2001, the Congress had won one mayoral election, 19 nagar nigams and 11 nagar panchayats. In 2006, the tally rose to three mayors, 21 nagar nigams and 33 nagar panchayats. The sore point? The BJP's vote percentage touched 39 per cent.
Though the Congress rejected the contention that the saffron party was on the come-back trail since its success was confined to its traditional base in urban areas, spokesman Satyavrat Chaturvedi admitted that the BJP's performance was a matter of introspection, though not of worry. "Yeh chinta ka nahi, chintan ka vishai hai," he said.
Rubbishing reports about the party's defeat in Amethi, Chaturvedi said that of 11 nagar palikas and nagar panchayats in Amethi and Rae Bareli, the Congress won 7, while Independents got three (including the Amethi seat) and the SP one.
The BJP, which had won three in 2001, drew a blank while the Congress bettered its tally from three in 2001 to seven this time.
Chaturvedi rejected the argument that Congress' improved performance was due to BSP's absence from the poll scene. Claiming that the dalit party did not want to expose itself by contesting the election, he said: "Certain myths would have exploded had the BSP contested the elections."