Congress eyes UP gateway to power - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

Congress eyes UP gateway to power

ByHT Editorial
Jun 19, 2024 02:25 AM IST

Gandhi’s decision to retain his heartland stronghold is a symbolic nod to the importance of the Hindi belt and the Congress’s resolve to fight back

That Rahul Gandhi would have to give up either Wayanad or Rae Bareli has been clear since June 4 when he won both Lok Sabha seats — the former in Kerala that saved him the blushes after he lost in Amethi in 2019 and the latter a family pocket borough in Uttar Pradesh (UP) once held by his grandfather, grandmother and mother. This week, Gandhi decided to hold on to the UP stronghold and give up the Kerala seat for his sister, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, to make her Lok Sabha debut. Her political trajectory will be important to track but the real import of the decision is not in the verdant hills of the Western Ghats but the dusty plains of central UP that have cradled generations of prime ministers.

FILE PHOTO: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and her brother Rahul Gandhi, senior leader of India's main opposition Congress Party, are seen ahead of an INDIA alliance meeting in New Delhi, India, June 5, 2024. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/File Photo (REUTERS) PREMIUM
FILE PHOTO: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and her brother Rahul Gandhi, senior leader of India's main opposition Congress Party, are seen ahead of an INDIA alliance meeting in New Delhi, India, June 5, 2024. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/File Photo (REUTERS)

The biggest story of the 2024 elections was the surprising verdict by UP, considered the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s strongest fortress. It housed the constituencies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and defence minister Rajnath Singh, and had popular chief minister Yogi Adityanath, who created history two years ago by winning a second consecutive term while helming the campaign. Yet, when results streamed in on June 4, across India’s most populous state, and especially in its eastern belt, the BJP suffered dramatic reverses. The Samajwadi Party emerged as the single-largest party, winning 37 seats compared to the BJP’s 33. Its principal ally, the Congress won six seats, including its strongholds of Amethi and Rae Bareli. Crucially, the Opposition bloc won back votes from lower caste communities that had drifted to the BJP over the last decade. Consolidating these gains is crucial if the Congress has to revive in the state that still holds the keys to power in Delhi, and where assembly polls are due in two years. That cannot happen if its biggest leader, Rahul Gandhi, keeps away at the precise moment the BJP’s aura of invincibility in UP has been somewhat dispelled.

The other facet of the decision is connected to the Congress’s weakness in head-to-head contests with the BJP. The party improved its strike rate from 9% in 2019 to 28% in 2024 but still has a long way to traverse. Against this backdrop, Gandhi’s decision to retain his heartland stronghold is a symbolic nod to the importance of the Hindi belt and the Congress’s resolve to fight back in a region dominated by the BJP. Whether the bet will pay off is yet to be seen. But for the first time in 15 years, the Congress has registered its presence on the political chessboard of UP.

Unlock a world of Benefits with HT! From insightful newsletters to real-time news alerts and a personalized news feed – it's all here, just a click away! -Login Now!

Continue reading with HT Premium Subscription

Daily E Paper I Premium Articles I Brunch E Magazine I Daily Infographics
freemium
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Monday, July 22, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On