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Priyanka Gandhi Changing the Game in UP May Not be All That Bad For BJP. Here’s Why

After the Samawjadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party stitched an alliance for the Lok Sabha elections, the announcement by the Congress to contest all 80 Lok Sabha seats was seen as bravado and posturing. That bravado may turn into a political reality.

Virendranath Bhatt |

Updated:January 25, 2019, 3:24 PM IST
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Priyanka Gandhi Changing the Game in UP May Not be All That Bad For BJP. Here’s Why
Priyanka will be taking charge of the new responsibility from the first week of February, a press release issued by General Secretary Ashok Gehlot said. (Image: AP)

Lucknow: Rahul Gandhi reached his Lok Sabha constituency on Wednesday and told a Congress leader congratulating him for the recent victory of the party in three states that he has brought `Dawa’ (medicine) for Uttar Pradesh.

This was soon followed by the announcement in Delhi that Priyanka Gandhi has been appointed as the Congress general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh east and Jyotiraditya Scindia for UP west. The rank-and-file of the Congress men in UP have welcomed the development.

“Right decision at the right moment,” said Ashok Singh, general secretary of UP Congress Committee.

After the Samawjadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party stitched an alliance for the Lok Sabha elections, the announcement by the Congress to contest all 80 Lok Sabha seats was seen as bravado and posturing. That bravado may turn into a political reality.

UP east includes 47 districts and nearly three dozen Lok Sabha seats fall in this region. Barring Azamgarh, Amethi, Rai Bareli and Kannauj, all were won by the BJP and its ally Apna Dal in 2014.

Two days after the SP-BSP alliance in Uttar Pradesh without the Congress was announced on January 12, the Congress had criticised the move saying “it was exactly what the BJP wanted initially and the two regional parties have fallen into the ruling party's design”.

The Congress said the BJP wanted the secular parties to remain divided in the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh before the 2019 Lok Sabha election and contest independently so that their votes could be split. Its attempts have proved successful. The Congress also said that it would contest on all 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh in the general election, expected in April-May. That the party was left out of the SP-BSP alliance would not affect its prospects and the Congress would contest with "full-force".

The move has come as a setback for the SP-BSP alliance as it has created fresh avenues for the prospective Lok Sabha candidates of both SP and BSP but denied opportunity to contest as both the parties have shared 38 seats each and rest will go to the smaller parties. The SP, BSP appeared over confident of their electoral arithmetic comprising of the Dalits, OBCs and Muslims.

“The likely improvement in the electoral fortune of the Congress has brought a new hope for those SP and BSP leaders who were at the dead ends of their political careers because of the alliance of the two parties. Now they have the option of knocking at the door of the Congress,” said a political an analyst.

“The entry of Priyanka Gandhi could be setback for the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance. The strategists of SP and BSP were confident that there will be direct fight with the BJP, now the electoral battle is likely to be triangular one that may benefit the BJP,” said Beni Prasad Verma, Rajya Sabha MP from Samajwadi Party and also a former member of the Congress Working Committee.

Verma added that the “forceful” entry of the Congress could also create dilemma for the Muslim voters and provide a credible alternative to the rebels in SP, BSP and the BJP.

A former BSP MP, while refusing to be identified said the SP-BSP leaders should have made efforts for the honourable accommodation of the Congress in the alliance.

He said this would have sealed the fate of the BJP and the tally of the ruling party at the Centre could have been reduced to a single digit. “If 2017 UP assembly election is the benchmark, then the alliance plus Congress would have secured 52.08% vote share as compared to 39.67% of the BJP,” said the BSP leader.

The observers say the likely upsurge in the electoral fortunes of the Congress is not all that bad for the BJP as the triangular contest will help in the division of the anti-BJP votes—particularly of the minorities.

The entry of Priyanka Gandhi, the UP Congress leaders say will bring cheers on the faces of several key leaders like Salman Khurshid, Sanjay Singh, Ratna Kumari Singh, PL Punia, RPN Singh and Raj Babbar among others.

These were the Congress leaders who had won from UP during 2009 Lok Sabha elections and are keen to contest 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The observers, however, point out that during 2009 Lok Sabha polls the Congress had lost six seats it had won in 2004 Lok Sabha polls and could retain only Rai Bareli, Amethi and Kanpur. But it made up for the losses by registering a stunning victory in 18 new Lok Sabha seats.

This victory was largely due to the alliance of the Samajwadi Party with the former BJP chief minister Kalyan Singh, an accused in Babri demolition case—leading to Muslim votes shifting to the Congress. Senior SP leader Azam Khan had launched a fierce campaign against the party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, leading to his expulsion from the party, thus alienating a large chunk of Muslim voters and enabling the Congress to win most of the seats from Faizabad to Moradabad.

(Author is a senior journalist. Views are personal)

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