BSP held responsible for BJP victory in the state assembly election

By Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr

Call it loss or deadening of sensation. Congress seems not to feel the electoral defeat in Uttar Pradesh. It is acknowledged that Congress did not make it, and that there is need for internal assessment to address the party’s problems. But there is no sense of despair. Congress’ Member of Parliament from Uttar Pradesh, PL Punia, said in an informal chat with media-persons, “Congress will return to power in 2019 and Rahul Gandhi will be the prime minister.” It seemed the kind of statement that would invite nothing but derision from a cynical media. But Mr Punia was serious. It was a straightforward statement.

Coming back to UP election, the argument that is doing the rounds at least in a section of Congress men and women is Mayawati of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) could not hold her flock of Dalit voters, and many of them have voted for the BJP. It conceded that it is mostly the non-Jatav votes that went to the BJP, and, perhaps, some of the Jatav votes as well. Overall, Mayawati has managed to hold the votes of the Jatavs. It is also said that by giving 100 assembly tickets to Muslim candidates she had triggered polarisation. According to Congress sources non-local RSS workers were around in every constituency and they carried the whisper campaign that if the BSP candidate is not defeated, then Muslims would carry the day. The implication seems to be that by giving so many seats to Muslims, she has indirectly helped the BJP to capitalise on the religious divide. It is also suggested by the Congress source that the habitual non-Dalit BSP voter too switched sides and voted for the BJP along with the non-Jatav.

The inference is that the BJP has picked up all those BSP seats because the party had gathered about 20 per cent of BSP vote, and when it was added to BJP’s own share of the vote, it became a big margin. The argument is that there was no wave in favour of the BJP, but that it just managed to gather those extra votes, quite a chunk of them, and it has had an incremental impact, which turned out to be crucial. Of course, the Congress source is not willing to concede whether the same thing happened with the Samajwadi Party and the Congress.

There is also the rationalisation that the Congress’ tally of seven seats in the present Assembly is commensurate with the number of seats that the party had contested this time around, that is, 100. The party had 28 Members of the Legislative Assembly when it had contested all the 400 seats in the 2012 Assembly election.

The Congress is not worried or shocked by the choice of Yogi Adityanath as the chief minister. The Congress source made it clear that Adityanath was not really Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pick , hinting that the Rashtriya Swayasevak Sangh (RSS)had played a role in catapulting Adityanath into the chief minister’s office. The Congress seems to hope that Adityanath, the party and Modi have made such exaggerated promises to the people which they cannot fulfil, and therefore they would be knocked down both in the 2019 Lok Sabha election as well as in 2022, the next assembly election in UP.

The most intriguing part is the view of Congress campaign wizard Prashant Kishore. It is being said that he gave a detailed campaign strategy for each constituency, marking out the number of people to be assigned social media work, the exact number who would arrange the meetings. This gave the impression that the Congress was seriously going to fight in each one of 400 odd seats. And the party cadres were enthused. But the man who laid out the strategy with such attention to minutae went and negotiated the alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP), forcing the party to contest only 100 seats and pouring cold water on the energised cadres in each of the constituencies. A sharp inconsistency is seen in Kishore’s approach, where he could not make up his mind whether Congress should go alone or forge an alliance with the SP. But the Congress source defends the alliance with SP, and argues that it was the right thing to do.

The Congress in UP will go into a huddle when party vice-president Rahul Gandhi would return on March 23, and prepare a report on what went wrong with the poll effort and the lessons to be drawn from the campaign.