What the Congress needs to do in Uttar Pradesh
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What the Congress needs to do in Uttar Pradesh

How the Congress maximises its prospects of victory, while ensuring that the BJP does not end up benefiting from a triangular battle, is the big question for the party in the state in 2019

editorials Updated: Jan 14, 2019 18:31 IST
Hindustan Times
Mahagathbandhan,2019 parliamentary elections
The Congress plans to fight all the 80 parliamentary seats in UP in 2019 elections. It is too early to predict how the party would fare in the state. But for a respectable performance, it will need to reconstruct its old coalition of upper castes, Muslims and Dalits(PTI)

The Congress has decided to contest all 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh. Paradoxical as it may sound, the decision is born both out of choice and compulsion. Many within the party, particularly in the state unit, strongly advocated going it alone. This, they argued, would help in the process of Congress revival in the state — which, in turn, is central to its national revival. The alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP) in 2017, according to this school of thought, had weakened the Congress further. Putting up candidates in only a dozen or fewer seats as a part of any broader alliance would mean that the party would have no presence in the other seats. Its already depleting cadre would shift loyalties and move elsewhere. They also cited the 2009 performance of the Congress in UP — when it won more than 20 seats — to suggest that failure was not inevitable.

But the compulsion is hard to miss too. The SP and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) decided not to include the Congress within their alliance. Mayawati, in particular, made it clear at her press conference that this stemmed from their realisation that the Congress could not transfer its votes to others. It also comes from a hard look at numbers, which show that the Congress won just two seats and came second in half a dozen seats or so in 2014. The tactical calculation here appears to be that Congress candidates would actually cut the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) upper caste votes and could in fact help the Mahagathbandhan.

It is too early to predict how the Congress will fare in the state. For a respectable performance, it will need to reconstruct its old coalition of upper castes, Muslims and Dalits. Some in the Congress feel this is possible because Brahmins in particular are resentful of the Thakur domination in UP, and Muslims recognise that the national alternative to the BJP can only be the Congress. This would, of course, be the party’s best case scenario. But there is another possibility: a split in Muslim votes between the SP-BSP alliance and the Congress. If this happens, the BJP naturally benefits. How the Congress maximises its prospects of victory, while ensuring that the BJP does not end up benefiting from a triangular battle, is the big question for the party in the state in 2019.

First Published: Jan 14, 2019 18:30 IST