In the winter of 1989, Mulayam Singh Yadav thoroughly vanquished Congress in Uttar Pradesh and pushed the then ruling party into oblivion.
Mulayam's big bang arrival, along with the rise of Kanshiram-Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), meant that Congress sank into political insignificance in the critical Hindi heartland state. Mandal-Kamandal politics of the late 1980s and early 1990s had changed the political landscape of north India, UP in particular. Congress' traditional social support base, Muslims, Dalits and Brahmins split three ways — Muslims shifted their political allegiance to Mulayam's Samajwadi Party, Dalits to Kanshiram-Mayawati's BSP and Brahmins to the BJP, while the Congress got marginalised.
Twenty seven years later, Akhilesh Yadav pushed his father Mulayam to the margins in his very own Samajwadi Party and embraced the Congress as a significant alliance partner.
By giving 105 seats to Congress, much beyond its perceived electoral strength, Akhilesh not only negated Mulayam's politics of keeping Congress on the margins in the state, but also gave the party an ideal launchpad on a platter to bounce back. If the Congress had contested on its own, the party's prospects would have been doomed. An alliance with the Samajwadi Party would ensure that it remains in contention, even if as a pillion and be a talking point in UP and outside.
The Congress will surely gain out of this alliance but how much the Samajwadi Party will gain out of this alliance is difficult to assess for now. The Samajwadi's rank and file is certainly not very happy with this deal, not in the areas where the party is going to give its seat to Congress.
"By entering into an alliance with the Congress, Akhilesh has finished the party in several districts. In 105 constituencies, from which the Congress will contest, the Samajwadi workers will now be expected to get out and work for a party against which we have fought all along. Mulayam Singh Yadav had finished Congress and never allowed it to gain ground, Akhilesh has done just the reverse. More so, the number of seats given to Congress is totally disproportionate to their strength. We are not sure why he did so," a Samajwadi Party leader said.
The root cause of the anguish of the SP leaders is a 1996 poll analysis when the BSP had aligned with Congress. In the undivided UP, the BSP fought on 296 seats and had given 126 seats to Congress. The Congress won 33 seats and polled 20.13 percent votes in the seats it contested, while the BSP won 67 seats and polled 27.73 percent votes in the seats it contested. Since then, Mawayati has not aligned with the Congress. This year too, she rejected all overtures from Congress. The BSP chief and several others believe that while the BSP cadre transferred its vote to Congress, the Congress could not get its votes transferred to the BSP.
The other argument, which some aggrieved Samajwadis are making, is that the Muslims had deserted Congress in the wake of the Ram temple movement and demolition of the Babri Mosque. They came out strongly in support of Mulayam because he stood as a saviour to their cause during the Ram temple movement. Now, there is a situation where the party responsible for the demolition of Babri Mosque and the one (SP) who solidly stood against it that have joined hands.
Similarly for Muslims in eastern UP, sentiments around the Batla House encounter is very strong. The Batla House encounter in New Delhi took place in September 2008, when the Congress-led UPA government was in power and the Delhi police, involved in the encounter, reported to the Union Home Ministry. The two suspected Indian Mujahideen terrorists killed and two arrested in the incident were from Azamgarh. In the run up to the 2002 Assembly election, Rahul Gandhi was jeered at in Shibli College, Azamgarh.
The BSP's could stand to gain if the Muslims are not impressed by the secularist hype around SP-Congress alliance.
Akhilesh has joined hands with Rahul when Congress party was facing the worst prospects. Since the second half of 2013, Congress has lost all the elections it fought — states, parliamentary and even municipal. But the Congress bargained hard for a dignified three digit seat-sharing agreement in the alliance.
The stigma of corruption still looms large over Congress. Will that hurt Akhilesh's prospects? There have been charges of rampant corruption during SP's five-year regime in UP but now Akhilesh is desperately attempting to go for an image makeover. The BSP has already decided to make Congress' 'Coalgate' and Tulsi Prajapati (minister in Akhilesh government) mining scam as one of main campaign points against SP.
The BJP will be equally ballistic.
Akhilesh's supporters are banking on the "glamour quotient" of Akhilesh-Rahul and Dimple Yadav-Priyanka Gandhi Vadra than ground realities to win these polls.
Updated Date: Jan 23, 2017 17:38:38 IST