UP may hold balance for the Central government | india | Hindustan Times
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UP may hold balance for the Central government

A good performance in smaller states headed for polls between January-end and March would boost the morale of a beleaguered Congress. But it’s squarely in the hands of the UP electorate to bolster the numbers the UPA badly needs in Parliament to pursue policy. Vinod Sharma writes.

india Updated: Jan 04, 2012 13:39 IST
Vinod Sharma

A good performance in smaller states headed for polls between January-end and March would boost the morale of a beleaguered Congress. But it’s squarely in the hands of the UP electorate to bolster the numbers the UPA badly needs in Parliament to pursue policy.


If psephologist Yogendra Yadav is to be believed, the Congress itself might be surprised by its showing in the province it last ruled in the 1980s.
Central minister Jitin Prasada, who has been travelling with Rahul Gandhi, goes a step further: “It wouldn’t be a hung assembly. You wouldn’t know where the Congress will stop.”

Obviously partisan, Prasada’s optimism, based on responsive crowds at Gandhi’s meetings, isn’t shared by many within his party. They stop short at predicting an improved tally that could make the Congress the king-maker in a split vidhan sabha.

The prognosis is based on simple logic: no matter of what hue, a coalition in Lucknow would guarantee increased numbers for the coalition in New Delhi.
Why? As a post-poll BSP-SP alliance is unfathomable in UP, the party that’s denied power in the state will gravitate towards a share in power at the Centre. The issue-based outside support they currently extend to the UPA is no fixed deposit, as was evident from their adversarial stance on FDI in multi-brand retail and the government’s version of the lokpal legislation in Parliament.

The bargain for the Congress wouldn’t be undesirable. It will afford the party the option of adding the SP’s 23 or the BSP’s 21 to the UPA tally together with or at the expense of Mamata Banerjee’s unreliable 19.

Be that as it may, the Congress needs robust numbers to prop up a regime in UP. “That’s within the realm of possibility,” conceded a BJP leader from western UP, forecasting a hung assembly. He placed the Congress-RLD combine’s tally in the range of 60-100.

The speculated numbers pre-supposed the RLD and the Congress’s inability to sizably transfer Jat and Muslim votes to each other. For its part, the BJP, earlier having an edge over the Congress, isn’t all that lairy for want of a popular face and weak candidatures.

Mayawati’s other rivals have thrown up Gen-X leaders. The Congress has Gandhi, the SP Akhilesh Yadav and the RLD Jayant Chaudhary. “We’re stuck in the past,” lamented the BJP leader. The allusion clearly was to the Vajpayee name the saffron party is invoking to attract the Brahmin vote.

Independent observers view the building Rahul Gandhi-Akhilesh Yadav face-off as an important sub-plot to the UP polls: “One talks of the Congress’s promise of future, the other is trying to secure the SP’s present from tainted power-brokers…”

But Jitin Prasada is particular about distinguishing Gandhi’s pitch from the rest: others promise what they’d do, he underscores what the UPA has already done for the unemployed (MNREGA), farmers (loan waivers) and the minorities (quota for the economically weak, relief for weavers in eastern UP).

The Congress’s talking points showcase its poll strategy. Organisationally weak and without a clear-cut social alliance on its side, unlike the BSP and SP, it’s stoking popular aspirations against identity. Being in the political wilderness for more than two decades also helps it seek votes with conviction against the other three contenders.