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Awaiting Rahul’s magic wand

Nilofar Suhrawardy (India)
Filed on January 24, 2012

Rahul Gandhi, campaigning hard for Congress party’s victory in Uttar Pradesh (UP) assembly elections, is not new to politics.

He has succeeded in capturing substantial attention of media with his now being projected as a ‘kingmaker’ in UP politics. If Rahul’s political strategies fail to ensure a major victory for Congress, according to political speculations, it would not be possible for any party to form the next state government without support of the Congress.

Rahul is optimistic that his strategies will succeed in turning the Dalit (lower Hindu caste) vote-bank, Mayawati’s main political plank, in favour of Congress. Mayawati, a leader of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is the sitting UP Chief Minister. Rahul has earned substantial media coverage by eating at Dalits’ residence and interacting with them. But the real question is, to what degree can this media-hype be expected to turn into votes in support of Congress? The Dalit-card of Congress is weakened by the fact that Congress has not projected any Dalit as its nominee for the position of the next UP chief minister. Prospects of Mayawati (herself a Dalit) of being ousted from power in UP remain dim till a substantial dent is created in this vote-bank.

With Muslims viewed as the decisive-vote in at least 100 seats of 403-member UP assembly, Rahul has not wasted efforts in reaching out to them. If Rahul succeeds in turning UP votes in favour of Congress, this will facilitate his stepping onto the central stage as Congress nominee for the prime ministerial position.

Considering that Congress won only 22 seats in 2007 and 25 in 2003 UP assembly polls, only a magic-wand can help Rahul turn the political tide in his party’s favour. In the 2007 elections, Mayawati’s party bagged 206 seats.

Rahul’s political fate in UP is dependent on whether he succeeds in defying prospects of Mayawati returning to power. Though some hype has been created about other rivals, particularly Samajwadi Party and Bharatiya Janata Party faring better than earlier, this may not prove to be of much help to Congress. Both the parties are suffering from internal dissent and conflict because of which, chances of their winning more seats than they did in 2007 are bleak. Ever since former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has retired from politics, BJP has suffered setbacks in UP. The Congress may gain marginally if supporters of these two parties choose to vote in its favour.

Though Rahul has campaigned actively in UP, sparing no chance in targeting Mayawati on grounds of corruption and ill-governance, he has yet to cover the entire state. Secondly, the Congress has taken a lot of time in finalising its list of candidates for UP polls. There is a view that perhaps Congress has deliberately indulged in this strategy. If Congress fares well, Rahul can easily take the credit for his being command in UP. If Congress fails, the blame may be given to the weakness of the candidates. Now, it is to be watched whether Rahul’s strategy will work or not.

Nilofar Suhrawardy is a India-based writer

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