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02 November 2011

Uttar Pradesh Elections: An uphill task for Congress

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By Mohammad Shahid Parvez

After Kranti Rath yatra of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Swabhiman Yatra of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), it is now the turn of the Congress to launch its road show in the election-bound Uttar Pradesh. In the backdrop of Anna’s tirade against corruption, rising prices and disenchantment of Muslims with the party for ignoring their demands, the party general secretary and heir apparent will hit the six leg campaign trail in November in which BJP and BSP are likely to be main target of attack though the party will be soft on Samajwadi Party to leave the door open for any post-poll alliance. This is in accordance to the party’s claim that it will emerge the king maker if not the king after poll. However, looking at the ground realities this appears an uphill task, if not impossible, for the party.

Significantly, the Congress has decided to make a strong pitch for Muslim attention, with a sub-plan to hold rallies in minority dominated districts like Azamgarh, Aligarh, Bareilly, Lucknow and Lakhimpur. Besides, the party has also decided to discuss Muslims’ demands regarding education, entrepreneurship, skill development and security in the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs which is seen as a move meant not only for UP poll but to set the tone for a decisive show down in 2014.

The Congress Party had raised its Lok Sabha tally from 10 to 22 in the 2009 elections with the support of Muslims, who were then annoyed with Mulayam Singh Yadav for hobnobbing with Kalayan Singh whom the community holds responsible for the demolition of the Babri Masjid. But much water has flown the Ganges since then. Mulayam has now distanced from Kalyan and apologized to the community. Muslims may or may not have forgiven the SP chief but the Congress is not too sure if the same story of 2009 will be repeated in an Assembly contest. With the main choice of the electorate broadly restricted to regional parties the calculations in the Assembly poll are different and may not go in Congress favour.

The Congress is aware of this fact and also that it has ignored Muslims’ demand for years which may harm its interest in the elections. Hence the sudden interest is in the community’s problems and debate and discussions on their demands. However Muslims this time are determined not to get swayed by hollow promises of the parties as reflected in the statement of All India Muslim Personal; Law Board member Zafaryab Jilani’s statement after a Reservation Movement rally: “This time only promises by parties won’t do. If the Congress and BSP governments fail to take concrete steps they will face the consequences in the elections’

Apart from the Muslim factor, corruption, price rise and lack of committed cadre at grassroot level are the issues that may hamper the progress of Congress jaggernut in the state. As for corruption is concerned, no party is above the board and Congress cannot be singled out. With Anna movement getting mired in controversies especially after its call to boycott Congress in Hissar poll, corruption is not as big issue as the price rise which has hit the common man badly. Whatever the Congress may say in its defence the general feeling among people is that the Manmohan government is more concerned about the profit to corporate houses than the plight of the common man. They say that our Prime Minister is ready to forgo taxes worth lakhs to benefit the corporate houses because he thinks that is necessary for the nation’s progress but when it comes to giving subsidy on kerosene, fertilizers and other consumer goods used by common man he becomes handicapped because it hinders progress. However with the approaching elections the part has began to realize or pretends to realize this folly because party and government’s concern over price rise is getting louder with every passing day. Let us hope that good sense will prevail and the government will take adequate measures to bring down the prices soon.

Then there is lack of committed workers at village level who could motivate the voters and ensure that votes of those sympathetic to the party are polled. Gone are the days when Congress leaders came from modest background who toured and worked in their constituencies extensively and struck a personal bond with the people who mattered. Thus they were able to know the pulse of the people. The times have changed. Now the leaders are foisted from above who are not aware of the ground realities of their constituencies. There are leaders and candidates who do not know all the roads and streets of their home villages which fall in their constituencies but have succeeded in getting party tickets either through the influence of their fathers or by pleasing the bosses in Delhi and Lucknow. Such leaders are parasites who survive on the party popularity without having an image or vote of their own. That is perhaps why, as a Congress leader says, the party this time is looking for candidates with mass base who can win the election on their own.

These are the odds which Rahul Gandhi will have to overcome to make the Congress a force in UP. Although the party is trying to strike an alliance with RLD in western UP, the four-way opposition split with Congress and BJP as marginal forces has raised the prospects of a keen contest.

[Mohammad Shahid Parvez is former News Editor, National Herald, Lucknow. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Uttar Pradesh). He can be contacted at mshahidparvez@gmail.com]

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