Home / Opinion / Columns /  Which way is the political wind blowing in UP?
Listen to this article

Just after the 2012 Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, Hindustan had launched a popular campaign called ‘Rajneeti Khatam, Kaam Shuru’ (politics ends, work begins) to remind the elected representatives that they had won on the back of poll promises, and now they must fulfil them. The decade-old campaign flashed in my mind following the Lakhimpur Kheri incident. Our politicians often find opportunities in tragedies, but leave the victims to their fate at their own convenience. Does any party or personality really benefit from such an uproar?

Let’s start with the Congress and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the first major opposition leader to set out for Kheri as soon as the news broke. She was stopped by the police at Sitapur and kept at the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) guest house. Soon, a video went viral, wherein she was seen sweeping her room. How, why and by whom did this broom reach her high-security room? Those who are familiar with the PAC system know that trained staff keep the entire premises clean. But, why did Priyanka have to sweep her room? Was it intentionally left dirty? When they requested a broom, did the officials send only brooms instead of sending the sweepers? This is why Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav had alleged that the BJP government was deliberately doing this to divide the opposition. Yadav had also tried to visit Kheri, but the police did not allow him to leave his house.

Priyanka was earlier stopped at the Noida border while trying to visit Hathras. Back then, a photo of her went viral that showed her holding one end of a cop’s lathi. Congress workers claimed that she did it to save a worker from being beaten up. But will such visits and viral videos bring back the Congress’ lost support base? That’s what her supporters think. This time, when she was stopped on the night of 3 October, activists compared it to the Belchi visit of her grandmother Indira Gandhi. They say it is going to be a ‘Belchi moment’ for the Congress. But, will it?

Well, between the Congress of 1977 and the Congress of today, the situation has changed completely. The party was not in power in 1977, but its support base was intact. Indira Gandhi was fighting an army of senior leaders who were insisting on so-called principles, but were indifferent to the contradictions. Morarji Desai had become the prime minister, but he was the leader of a khichdi coalition. All parties had different ideologies and interests. Indira Gandhi took advantage of this. She fulfilled Charan Singh’s ambitions and let him occupy the prime minister’s chair, but soon pulled the rug from under his feet.

Today, Priyanka and her brother Rahul Gandhi are challenging a party with a leader like Narendra Modi, whose electoral popularity is no less than Indira Gandhi’s. The saffron party is now the largest political organization in the world. On the other hand, the Congress’ support base has been shrinking since 1989, with one exception. Belchi had provided a powerful leader of a strong party a chance to return to power. If what happened in Hathras and Lakhimpur can together provide even one-tenth of what the Congress had achieved back then, it would be a big deal.

Besides, in 1977, there was no SP or BSP—parties with a strong social base that have been successful in wooing minorities and other groups. The Congress has no such base in UP. Priyanka could have built a base if she had settled down for five years in the state instead of making frequent visits from Delhi. This gives the BJP an opportunity to call her a ‘political tourist’. Congress’ well-wishers believe that if she had camped in Prayagraj, then perhaps the situation would have been different. When the state is so close to the election, an attempt could have been made to create a political wave. This is what Priyanka is trying to do in the state.

SP supremo Akhilesh Yadav, on the other hand, started a Vijay Yatra within 10 days of what happened in Lakhimpur. He will try to boost the morale of his workers over the next few months. He will also try to woo voters who had deserted the party during the last assembly election. Discussions of his political alliance with the National Lok Dal led by Jayant Chaudhary are in full swing. If Yadav and Chaudhary join forces in western UP, it will certainly be a tough fight for the BJP. Will the emerging political chemistry of SP, RLD and a few other regional parties led by Yadav be able to oust the BJP? Asaduddin Owaisi and Mayawati seem like an obstacle in his path. Yogi Adityanath is seen as a strong nationalist leader and a chief minister focusing on enforcing law and order. In this backdrop, who’s game is this? Will discuss at large, but let all the pieces find their place on the political chessboard.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. The views expressed are personal.

Subscribe to Mint Newsletters
* Enter a valid email
* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.
Recommended For You
Edit Profile
Get alerts on WhatsApp
Set Preferences My ReadsFeedbackRedeem a Gift CardLogout