South Asian Insider
Priyanka Gandhi, come back home
Only the Congress can fill the political vacuum in Uttar Pradesh
(News Agencies)- The Congress faces a crisis in the crucial state of Uttar Pradesh (UP). In the last three decades, it has, in elections, tied up with the Bahujan Samaj Party (losing its original Dalit voters to them), with the Samajwadi Party (to face a great drubbing in the 2017 assembly polls), and fought alone. None of it has worked.
There was a glimmer of hope in 2009, when Rahul Gandhi, on the back of welfare schemes and hard work, led the Congress to success. In 2016, Gandhi's Kisan Yatra across UP energised the cadre but there was little follow-up thereafter. In the recent Lok Sabha polls, the party won merely one seat, and its vote share shrunk to 6%.
In the last 20 months, having travelled to numerous districts in the state, especially central and east UP, I witnessed the reality of the moribund Congress organisation and its infighting. But despite being out of power for over 30 years, the fact that the party structure, organisation, people and supporters exist gives reason for hope.
The BJP is sitting pretty with a majority government in both Delhi and Lucknow. It has successfully combined muscular Hindu nationalism with micro caste management.
But an examination of other players in the theatre reveals that the ground is ripe for a new force. The SP managed to hold on to five seats in the Lok Sabha with an alliance with the BSP. But Akhilesh Yadav won Azamgarh only because the Congress chose not to put up an influential candidate, Ramakant Yadav (he contested and lost his deposit from Bhadohi instead). The party has seen a steady dip in its vote share in the state.
The BSP has had a minor revival, primarily due to its alliance with the SP, winning 10 seats. The alliance broke; Mayawati made her brother the number 2 of her party, and officially launched her nephew in politics. It remains to be seen whether her dwindling vote bank (the BSP has been slowly losing vote share since 2012) of Jatavs will get enamoured by Mayawati's dynasty.
This churn provides an opportunity to revive the Congress under Priyanka Gandhi's capable leadership. In marketing, they teach that to launch or relaunch a new product in the market, you have to find a central idea or a figure. For the Congress in UP, that central idea is Priyanka Gandhi.
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