With just a year left to assembly polls scheduled early next year, Yogi Adityanath led BJP government in Uttar Pradesh is hopeful of doing what no other political party had been successful with over the last three decades. It hopes to break the jinx that the party in power has never been repeated for the second consecutive term. Behind this aspiration are the party’s perceived strong dominance and the fact that the opposition politics has not been able to catch the wider imagination so far.
The opposition parties have also sprung to action with the approaching polls. Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav has gone into action mode and Priyanka Gandhi, the Congress General Secretary in charge for UP, is all set to launch a mega offensive in the state. But the question that emerges is whether the opposition can turn the tide in its favour or else is it too late to counter the saffron dominance in the politically significant state.
BJP’S FREE RUN AND A WEEK OPPOSITION
In a couple of months, CM Yogi Adityanath will complete its fourth year. Never in recent history of majority governments, has opposition been so rudderless and unsuccessful in building a broader opinion and a powerful campaign against the ruling party.
The credit for BJP’s continued success in the 2019 general elections could be the failed experiment of the grand alliance between the SP and the BSP. The space of the opposition was further curtailed during the covid-19 pandemic era that clouded last year.
Though Congress and Priyanka Gandhi did waged a few successful political campaigns against the state government on issues of migrant workers, law and order and ‘bad governance’ it’s impact was limited as the party failed to sustain the momentum.
Gandhi remained actively involved with the party’s organizational work, her absence from the state, baring her visit during Gangrape and murder of a Dalit girl in Hathras, was projected by opponents as a “proof of half-hearted” intervention.
While Congress did remained in the show, the Samajwadi Party was largely absent in 2020. Another major opposition force the BSP, was mostly in news for its seemingly soft approach towards the BJP and its open attack against the Congress and the SP.
A YEAR TO POLLS—AKHILESH GETS INTO ACTION
Breaking the Lull, Samajwadi Party and its chief Akhilesh Yadav now seems to be getting in the action mode. His strong intervention in favor of the ongoing farmers protest, against the new farm laws marked the beginning of his offensive. The fact that Akhilesh even courted arrest was seen as a strong message to his party cadre for pulling up the socks and getting in action.
Since then, Akhilesh has been visiting districts, meeting party workers and leaders. The party has also launched training sessions for its workers where one such camp recently held in Chitrakoot was attended by Akhilesh himself.
“The training camps are a unique mechanism, where party leadership gets to interact with the grass root workers, chalk out the broader strategy. In run up to assembly elections, these camps are focused on electoral strategy and preparing the cadre for the challenge ahead” Samajwadi party legislator Sunil Singh Sajan said.
The question remains whether it can reap any results? Senior journalist Ramdutt Tripathi says “Samajwadi party since its inception had been the party of struggle. This trait has been lost over the past few years. This has weakened the party cadre.” He adds, “Akhilesh inherited the leadership when party was in power, he needs to get out of power mode and behaving like the CM in waiting. Against formidable enemy like BJP, he needs to intensify the struggle.”
ORGANIZATION IN SHAPE, PRIYANKA PLANS INCREASED OFFENSIVE
For the grand old Congress, the challenge had been to build an organization which could cash on its leader Priyanka Gandhi’s popularity. The party, which has been out of power in the state for more than thirty years, till recently had no organizational committees at the block level. Organization on more than sixty thousand Nyay panchayats was a distant dream.
The hard work over past one year has now resulted in formation of party committees in more than 800 blocks of the state. Party leadership claims they also have a robust organizational structure in more than 15 thousand Nyay panchayats and the number is only adding up. Before this micro level organizational work, party under Priyanka’s supervision had already streamlined the Jumbo PCC from five hundred plus members to 62-member committee.
“Our party now has an efficient and responsive mass-based organization. The new strength should be judged from the successful campaigns which party led in recent months. From issue of migrant laborers, to farmers, law and order and unemployment no other party challenged the government or faced police brutalities”, Congress’ state media convener Lallan Kumar said.
With organizational structure in place, top leaders say that Priyanka Gandhi is now all set to hit Streets in Uttar Pradesh. “Priyanka’s electoral campaign will start sometime after Mid-January and will begin from western Uttar Pradesh. The Gandhi scion will start from attending the Panchayat level meetings in villages of Districts like Ghaziabad and Meerut.” A senior leader aware of the development told News18.
The idea is to catch the larger public imagination with a “Gandhi” hitting the dusty by lanes of the villages. Beginning with Panchayat yatras and village meetings the Priyanka campaign will gradually pick up in the run up to assembly polls.
NEW ENTRANTS FURTHER DIVIDE THE OPPOSITION
The major opposition players might just be gearing up to the challenge, the others are already busy flexing muscles. From AIMIM to AAP, smaller players have made the intent clear about contesting the assembly polls. However, Both Asaduddin Owaisi led AIMIM and Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP even in their limited capacity can be a bigger nemesis for the opposition, rather than the BJP.
“BJP has been able to maintain a strong hold on its caste and religion-based vote bank since 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Further role played by AIMIM in Bihar should not be forgotten. These smaller players will clearly benefit the BJP”, senior journalist Mudit Mathur said.
Possibility of alliance between the AIMIM and the BSP, as evident in Bihar, can further result in division of minority votes. Even Samajwadi Party and the Congress will eye for the share.