The Congress is grappling with two fears -- the prospects of the BSP expanding its area of influence from UP to other states and the party’s inability to translate the UPA government’s achievements into political benefits for the party.
In an indication that the leadership is concerned at the party's inability to revive itself in states like UP, Bihar or West Bengal, Congress president Sonia Gandhi recently asked her general secretaries to prepare an action plan to galvanise the organisation in every state ahead of the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
The latest sign of worry comes from the Karnataka unit of the party whcih is looking at the large cut out of UP chief minister and BSP leader Mayawati that have started appearing in Bangalore and other cities with scepticism. More than the ruling JD(S)-BJP, they fear that BSP's entry in might eat into its support base.
This is true also of the party in Gujarat -- where elections are slated later this year -- Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi where polls are due in 2008 and in Maharashtra where votes will be cast in 2009. In fact, there are fears that it might affect the party adversely even in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
Unlike regional parties like the RJD, the SP, the DMK or the AIADMK which have remained confined to their home states, the BSP -- and to some extent the NCP -- are trying to expand their horizon and area of influence. In Mayawati’s case, the threat is greater -- because the vast dalit constituency she appeals to still remains to be fully tapped in states other than UP. And she is trying to consolidate this base by appealing to other sections as well.
"The earlier combination of Dalits, Brahmins and minorities which always helped Congress in capturing power in UP is harnessed now by Mayawati…She has now made a sound combination of dalits, Brahmins, Muslims, OBCs and upper caste Thakurs," Yogendra Makwana, chairman SC-ST cell in the Congress, noted in his publication Sandesh in June. He went on to add: "This trend could endanger the BJP and the Congress’s shared electoral properties in MP, Chhattisgarh and Delhi where polls are due next year."
Similarly, party leaders have often underlined that the Congress-led UPA government’s achievements have not been used by the party to rebuild itself in Opposition-rules states including UP and Bihar.
The latest to talk about it is Parliamentary Affairs Minister P R Dasmunsi who said that he will urge Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia to set up Bharat Nirman Action Committees in all states to propagate the UPA’s Rs 1,74, 000 crore flagship programme for changing the face of rural India.
Other initiatives that required hardselling as the UPA’s programmes include the national rural employment guarantee act, the right to information act and the forest dwellers act. "We have fulfilled 82 per cent of the commitments we made in the Common Minimum Programme. The remaining will be completed by the 2008 Budget session," he said.