UP bypoll results put question mark over Congress revival in Hindi heartland
New Delhi: The Congress party led by Rahul Gandhi remained a marginal player in the byelections held in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, results for which were announced on Wednesday, putting a question mark over the revival of the party in the Hindi heartland.
Besides, the Congress’ poor performance, particularly in Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha constituencies, is expected to cast a shadow on its attempts to forge opposition unity ahead of the 2019 general elections.
“I congratulate contestants who have won in the by-polls. The results make it clear that voters are angry against BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and they will vote for that non-BJP candidate who is most likely to win. Congress is committed to rebuilding itself in UP, this will not happen overnight,” Gandhi tweeted soon after the results were announced.
While Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party (SP) joined hands to contest the two seats in UP together, Congress stayed away from the alliance and fielded its own candidates. SP won both seats.
Party leaders are divided over the call to contest alone but are confident that the results will not deter a SP-BSP-Congress alliance in 2019.
“We can debate whether we should have offered support to SP candidates in both seats but these seats have not been our strongholds in the past. All three parties coming together will be a formidable alliance and is the need of the hour,” a senior Congress functionary from Uttar Pradesh said, requesting anonymity.
“Our decline in the state has been continuous in the past few years. We have not been present on the ground and we are not seen with the people. We need to work at the grassroots—district, block and booth committees. If the three parties come together, the voter base of all three will be unbeatable,” the Congress leader cited above added.
Interestingly, in Bihar, Congress contested the byelections in alliance with Lalu Prasad-led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). While Congress lost the only seat it contested—the Bhabua assembly seat—to BJP, RJD won from the Araria Lok Sabha and Jehanabad assembly seats.
“I do not think at this point we have a lot of options. The next general elections are just a year away and we need to form alliances with like-minded parties wherever it suits our electoral prospects,” a senior Rajya Sabha leader from the Congress said, requesting anonymity.