UP Election 2017: Why Sheila Dikshit is happy to step down as Congress' CM candidate

Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and Congress's poll strategy in-charge of Uttar Pradesh appeared buoyant in announcing that his party was going to have an alliance with Akhilesh Yadav's Samjawadi Party for elections in Uttar Pradesh.

He showed no sign of anxiety, or cared to explain, now even asked (from what was shown on TV news channels) would happen to their pre-poll catch phrase "27 Saal UP Behal" (27 years UP in disarray). On 5 December, 1989 ND Tiwari relinquished chief minister's post after Congress was badly defeated in assembly elections, heralding entry of Mulayam Singh Yadav as a heavy weight politician to be at the helm of UP in times to come. Since then Congress has become Behal in Uttar Pradesh, which has a 403 member strong assembly and sends 80 Lok Sabha and 31 Rajya Sabha MPs. Azad added that so far the number of seats Congress would fight and names of constituencies which it would fight in alliance with Samjawadi Party.

Ironically, Congress is dumping its much thought after pre-poll "UP Behal" slogan to boost poll prospect of Mulayam Singh Yadav's son Akhilesh Yadav and in turn hope to boost its own prospects, whatever numbers it could add to its otherwise doomed poll prospect by riding pillion to Samajwadi cycle. The only difference between 27 years ago and now is that Mulayam was then leader of Janata Dal and now is "mentor" of Samajwadi Party.

Sheila Dikshit. Reuters

Sheila Dikshit. Reuters

The alliance between Akhilesh's Samajwadi Party and Congress have gone through rounds of discreet meetings between Samajwadi and Congress party leaders, with Rahul Gandhi in the loop. Rahul too would be looking forward to this alliance, for it will provide him and his party some saving grace, as also keep Congress relevant in UP politics. But no one would ever know whether he pondered even for minute that he went on a month-long tour of UP, 'Kisan Yatra' with this 27 Saal UP Behal slogan, coined by his the then poll strategist Prashant Kishor who in turn had borrowed it from BJP's 2005 Bihar poll catch phrase "15 saal bura haal" (against Lalu Yadav-Rabri Devi regime). Rahul has now discarded both, Kishor and his slogan.

Azad and rest of Congress leadership is confident of the belief that public memory is short and thus people would not ask them uncomfortable questions when they go out for campaigning.

One person who seems to be happiest over latest turn of events — Election Commission's verdict giving Akhilesh ownership of Samajwadi Party name and cycle symbol, reported truce call between father Mulayam and son Akhilesh and imminent tie-up between SP and Congress — is Congress's chief ministerial candidate, Sheila Dikshit. She is over enthused over developments and more than eager to do a sacrificial act.

Dikshit's happiness seemed genuine. In anticipation of an electoral tie-up between Samajwadi Party, Congress and Rashtriya Lok Dal for Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, she gave a sound bite to a news agency publicly announcing her "graceful withdrawal" of her chief ministerial claim.

She looked relieved and much happier than the day Congress party had months ago announced her their chief ministerial candidate in one of the most populous and politically most critical state of India. She had reasons to be happy.

Eventhough she was married to a well know political significant Brahmin family, Uma Shankar Dikshit, and had been an MP from UP, the state remained an unchartered, unknown territory for her. She was suddenly made to be face of the Congress party, was made to bear a responsibility for which she was neither equipped nor inclined. She was to lead Congress to a battle which the party had lost decades ago. Her close supporters knew she was brought out from a peaceful retirement at age of 78 — after having served Delhi chief minister thrice, briefly as Kerala Governor and total decimation of party in Delhi — to ring fence Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi and be a shield for them when time comes.

Her argument is there couldn't be two chief ministerial candidate in an alliance and thus she was being gracious in sacrificing her position of presumptive chief minister from Congress.

The tie-up between Congress and Samajwadi Party are being made in name of much maligned "secular" term. They are joining hands to protect secularist ethos against communalist forces (BJP). The implicit messaging is for the Muslim community that they should stay together to vote for the so called secularist forces SP-Congress-RLD which have combined together to stall onward march of communalist BJP. The BSP too is eying at Muslim votes and Mayawati has openly talked about it. Only a day ago, Mulayam Singh Yadav had termed son Akhilesh as anti-Muslim and Rahul saw Congress's hand in Gods of all religions, Shiva, Guru Nanak, Jesus Christ and Hazrat Ali.


Updated Date: Jan 17, 2017 20:33 PM

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