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Congress Can Ride SP Cycle Back to the Hindi Heartland

Its alliance with the Samajwadi Party could be the elusive opening that the Congress may have been patiently waiting for since the 1989 meltdown in the politics of the Hindi heartland.

Sumit Pande | CNN-News18

Updated:January 30, 2017, 10:38 PM IST
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Congress Can Ride SP Cycle Back to the Hindi Heartland
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi during a joint press conference in Lucknow. (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: Its alliance with the Samajwadi Party could be the elusive opening that the Congress may have been patiently waiting for since the 1989 meltdown in the politics of the Hindi heartland.

Not just Muslims, the Congress seems to be using this opportunity to send a subtle message to the Dalit electorate, both in and outside Uttar Pradesh.

It was quite evident during the joint press conference by the two allies. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav came across as more spontaneous and natural, while Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had to quite forcefully revisit some of the issues concerning the Hindi heartland.

Two points, which the Congress vice-president made during the interaction, assume significance both in the current and post-poll scenarios.

The first was the suo-moto comparison between the BJP and the BSP. “There can be no comparison between the two,” said Rahul, topping up the statement with kind words for BSP chief Mayawati and her mentor Kanshi Ram.

In doing so, the Congress party not only reached out to BSP's Dalit votes, which for the first four decades after Independence were firmly in Congress's grasp. And, there is a sound political logic behind the move. There is no harm in even being the second preference for the Dalits voters in Uttar Pradesh. In a triangular fight, it might even help in certain areas.

Moreover, Rahul Gandhi is also looking at the post-poll scenario.

Over the last 15 years, the BSP has conceded a lot of space outside Uttar Pradesh. It is now, more or less, a UP-centric party with a limited presence elsewhere. And Congress sees itself as a natural claimant of the constituency being vacated by the BSP.

Further, in Uttar Pradesh, the BSP has been out of power since 2012. It failed to send even one MP to the Lok Sabha in the last General Election despite winning close to 20% votes.

This election, thus, is very crucial for Mayawati. She needs to revive and inspire her vote bank; project her party as a viable alternative.

Both the Congress and the BJP would be attempting to woo the Dalits at the periphery of the BSP’s core Jatav vote bank.

Rahul Gandhi, in his Lucknow press conference, laid the ground for precisely that.

The other politically significant point made during the press meet was the repeated and direct attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the RSS. By taking pole position on the two, the Congress is sending a message to the minorities, both in Uttar Pradesh and outside, and is projecting itself as the natural alternative to the BJP at the Centre.

The intent for the Congress, as a pan-India party, is to position itself to accrue the gains whenever there is counter-polarisation at the national level.

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