The SP-Congress alliance poses a real challenge to the BJP in Uttar Pradesh.
Like Bihar, we’ll show our mettle in UP
The question is not whether the alliance poses a real challenge or not. The real issue is the development of Uttar Pradesh. The BJP is in the habit of making false promises and trying to hoodwink people. It is time we called their bluff. There is no challenge; we are head and shoulders above them, they are nowhere in the competition. We were successful in Bihar and now we will show our mettle in UP. The alliance will act as a force multiplier for us. At the moment, we are looking at almost 300 seats in the coming UP Assembly elections. This should not come as a surprise.
The BJP had been fomenting trouble in UP for long. Look at western UP — they are always looking for a chance to start their divisive agenda. It is shocking to see the kind of people who have received tickets from the BJP. I need not go into their past, it is for all to see. It shows they are frustrated and have no agenda to work upon. If they want to work in UP they should at least tell the people what their plans are.
We started our work as early as July 2016. There were serious problems, which are being faced by the farmers of the country. The BJP has done nothing for them. In fact, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhiji led a delegation to the Prime Minister to apprise him of the situation of farmers. We have already announced that we will waive off all farmer debts in the state and also halve the electricity bills of farmers.
I want to ask the BJP — have they done anything for the people who have been affected by demonetisation? More than a hundred people lost their lives because of the sheer mismanagement of the government. The BJP has destroyed institutions and livelihood of lakhs of people. The medium and small scale industry is in tatters; there have been large-scale layoffs. The question is who is responsible; will anybody take responsibility? The policy of this government has always been to shoot and scoot. Farmers have also been severely affected by demonetisation. Seeds were not available to them as there was a serious cash crisis. Please come and look at the state of local industry in Agra, Aligarh, Varanasi, Bhadohi — you will get your answer on why the BJP is not coming to power.
The Congress and SP are present everywhere in the state. We have a trusted and clean leadership. Two youth icons are leading this alliance — Mr Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav. Both are trusted leaders. What has the BJP got? Have they declared who will lead the BJP in the state? It is a vacuum. A senior leader like Murli Manohar Joshi is not even in the list of star campaigners. Basically, the BJP wants to use the name of the Prime Minister to garner votes. But it’s a faulty way to go — his name failed to get them any votes in Bihar, and the same will happen in UP.
With no leadership in the state it would certainly be churlish of the BJP to even think that they have a chance. We have got into an alliance to form the government and serve the people of UP. That’s exactly what will happen.
Vipul Maheshwari is treasurer of the Uttar Pradesh Congress
The Cong-SP alliance is opportunistic
Indian politics has entered into post-ideological phase and there can’t be a better example than the current politics in UP. Parties have lost ideological vigour and they are dependent on individual political actors and identities with which they identify themselves. The BJP, which has an ideological face and agenda, can’t outright declaim identity politics in adversarial politics, where votes will decide the destiny, not the values one cherishes.
Till the 1990s the state had strong ideological foundations and therefore identities played second fiddle. The state had produced national leaders of all political and ideological shades. In fact, it has been a laboratory of national politics. The state can feel pride that eight out of 12 PMs have been from UP. But with the passage of time, the new leadership has no ideological depth. In the post-ideological phase, the game of dice prevails.
There are three political camps challenging each other. The ruling SP forged an alliance with the Congress with an unrealisable hope to polarise votes beyond its caste citadel. The alliance is only a psychological gain for both. The Congress is leaderless in the state and the party knows the limits of its national leadership. Political actors groomed in a culture of competitive sycophancies cannot have mass appeal. Moreover, the party has no agenda except its relevance in the state politics, which was obvious from the humiliating treatment it faced in front of the SP. Another misfortune of the Congress is that it cannot identify itself with any social group. The infighting inside the SP was well scripted by Mulayam Singh Yadav to transfer his forte to Akhilesh. A shred Mulayam Singh has twin objectives. One, the perpetuation of dynastic war deflected people from governance and development. It kept people curious to know who was the winner in semi-final, quarter-final and final. The second objective was to project Akhilesh as relatively clean. Only the future can tell how far the party succeeds in ensuring the unchallenged leadership of Akhilesh.
The Congress-SP alliance is opportunistic and both have a history of sabotaging each other. Their political legacies do not endorse their alliance. Sonia Gandhi cannot forget Mulayam Singh was the reason for her unfulfilled ambition to become PM.
Narendra Modi is the tallest among all contemporary political leaders and his identification with the state in a span of less than three years gives the party extra advantage. Unlike Bihar, where Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD and Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) had a common political origin and destiny, in UP two major non-BJP parties — BSP and SP — cannot have even eye contact.
This gives the BJP an edge. However, its fortune depends much on consolidating its own cadres and galvanising voters on ideology and development. The Congress-SP alliance shows anti-BJPism forms an ideology itself for both partners. The resurgence of the saffron tide seems irresistible either by the Congress-SP’s post-ideological partnership or ungraced by corruption-charged BSP. The BJP has a major challenge to deconstruct the curse of post-ideological politics.
Rakesh Sinha is an associate professor of the University of Delhi and honorary director of the India Policy Foundation