In the Samajwadi Party-sponsored riveting family drama currently being played out in Uttar Pradesh, one party emerges as the shadowy, mythical Loch Ness monster capable of intimidating opponents and initiating tectonic shifts in the Hindi heartland and yet enjoying a measure of plausible deniability.
Both the Mulayam and Akhilesh camps have so far blamed each other for going to bed with the BJP and creating a vertical split. The BJP, cleverly, has sought to let confusion prevail by refusing to either confirm or deny the 'machinations'. As Amit Shah captures rival rooks and pawns on the UP chessboard, the party looks like a force again, ready to pounce on the opportunity that has presented itself.
The fickle world of politics twists and bends the space-time curve in such a manner that three months resemble three decades. It was only in July that the BJP's poll prospects in UP seemed to be in tatters. Wave after wave of Dalit protests had created a tsunami of subaltern anger against deep social biases and despite Narendra Modi and Shah's desperate outreach, the BJP was rapidly painted as an anti-Dalit party erasing all gains posted in 2014 general elections.
The wave was so strong that it resurrected the political career of a powerful Dalit leader who had been banished to the borders of irrelevance just about couple of years ago. Mayawati rode the storm and even sensed an unprecedented, mythical Dalit-Muslim orientation. That may still happen. But the implosion of SP has changed the equation so rapidly that all past calculations are now redundant. Take, for instance, the possibility that the polls may be advanced.
As the ruling SP goes through a defining crisis with rumours gaining pace that supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav may perform a major surgery to cure the gangrene and even sack his son — the incumbent UP chief minister, the BJP has expectedly raised the pitch for Akhilesh to prove his majority in the 404-seat house. Though about 183 MLS reportedly turned up on Sunday during a key meeting called by Akhilesh at his residence, slips between cups and lips are the norm in politics. Only the bravest will now bet against an early election.
The BJP's confidence stems from a perception that recent events have conspired to put the party on a crest. As Mulayam Singh's party crumbles all around him and decades of political capital vanishes into the polluted Lucknow air in a blaze of ignominy and self-inflicted wounds, the BJP is moving fast.
On Monday, the Prime Minister is visiting his Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi with a basket of developmental projects and a subtle Hindutva message. The aim is to play the field and project the BJP — which still suffers from overwhelming dependence on Modi — as the party in control of the 'vikas' narrative, not Akhilesh.
According to PTI, Modi on Monday will launch a number of ambitious projects including a 1,500-km-long gas pipeline at a cost of Rs 51,000 crore. Called Urja Ganga, the gas pipeline project "promises to provide piped cooking gas to the residents of Varanasi within two years and, in another year thereafter, cater to millions of people in states like Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha."
Other schemes, says the news agency, include doubling of railway tracks on the busy Allahabad-Varanasi section, expansion of the Diesel Locomotive Works (DLW) and laying foundation stones for a fully air-conditioned perishable cargo centre and widening of a road passing through the Cantonment area. The Prime Minister will also release a stamp dedicated to Varanasi, the ancient temple town.
The BJP will make a mistake if it doesn't resurrect the developmental narrative which of late seemed to have been overshadowed by a return to Hindutva agenda. The 'vikas' plank delivered a whopping 42.3 percent vote share and 71 seats in 2014 and in the altered circumstances, regaining the trust of aspirational youth — cutting across caste and religion divide — could be a game-changing move. The party no doubt fears that implosion of SP will make Muslims rally behind the BSP but the non-Yadav OBC votes may fall in its kitty.
It's impossible to predict which way the wind will blow in a scenario which is changing almost by the minute but there is no denying that SP drama has given BJP a booster shot of confidence in UP.
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Updated Date: Oct 24, 2016 13:36:16 IST