Despite Rahul Gandhi electrifying the election campaign,Congress is not exactly on a strong footing in Uttar Pradesh,assessments and trends after the just concluded assembly polls indicate.
The talk that the party would do remarkably well and there will be “surprising” results in the politically most crucial state has died down gradually.
Now the realistic projections given by several party leaders is that the party is hopeful of getting 60 to 65 seats on its own and 15 for its ally RLD in the 403-member House.
As a Union minister puts it that 45 seats gained by Congress will be considered a “good” showing while it will be “excellent” if the party could get anything beyond sixty.
The minister reasoned that Congress never got more than 30 seats in last three Assembly elections and had not gone beyond 20 to 25 seats so far,including even when it contested 100 seats in alliance with BSP in 1996.
Congress is in political wilderness in Uttar Pradesh for the last 22 years following the Mandal and the Mandir surge in the Hindi belt that marginalised the party in its bastion after 1989. The demolition of Babri Masjid on December 6,1992,compounded it miseries.
The revival of the party began in the last Lok Sabha elections with Rahul’s focus on the state bringing 22 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats.
In this election,Congress has made a serious bid to revive its old political combination of Brahmins,Muslims and Dalits besides reaching out to those sections of the OBCs,which could not reap the benefits of reservation. The party coined words like Most Backward Castes (MBCs) and Ati Dalits. There is a feeling in the party that the tempo that was generated initially got lost into unnecessary controversies arising out of remarks on Batla encounter,minority reservation and talks of imposition of President Rule if the Congress failed to form a government in Uttar Pradesh.
There is a view that over emphasis on Muslim reservation pushed the non-Yadavs to the BJP’s fold,a chunk which Congress was assiduously trying to corner by projecting leaders like Beni Prasad Verma and Sriprakash Jaiswal.
The view is that BJP was able to polarise the votes on Muslim reservation issue and as it went hammer and tongs against Muslim reservation,Muslims rallied behind SP seeing it in winning condition.
Samajwadi Party had taken the argument of minority reservation further by seeking 18 per cent reservation for them.
A leader speaking on the condition of anonymity said a focused and balanced approach could not be maintained till the end as certain remarks showed a certain slant,that does not usually go well with a centrist party like Congress.
A section feels that talks of tie up with a SP in the state to provide a buffer to the UPA,which was getting constant battering from ally Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress,did not do good to the party’s fortunes in the state as it created an impression that Congress is not a key contender to form a government in Uttar Pradesh and will end up supporting a SP government.Congress leaders are,however,confident that the showing in the Assembly elections will in a way be a referendum on its performance in next Lok Sabha elections.
They feel that Samajwadi Party,which had a party organisation there,was the natural beneficiary of the strong anti-incumbency factor as it was for the first time after many years that the Congress made a serious bid in the state.
“In Lok Sabha,we will again get much better support. And if we get more than 60 seats this election,it will help us a lot in 2014 Lok Sabha elections,” a leader said.
The leader also indicated Rahul’s focus will increase in Uttar Pradesh all the more after the Assembly election results as UP results will play a crucial role in next Lok Sabha’s formation in 2014.