Its vote share down by almost 59 per cent since 2009, its candidates mostly at fourth position, the Congress has been the party worst hit by the BJP surge in Uttar Pradesh. Party leaders have admitted they “could not even get a decent number of Muslim votes”, and some top candidates could not manage even 1 lakh votes.
The Congress’s 67 candidates managed only about 60.61 lakh of 8.10 crore votes polled statewide, or 7.50 per cent, down 58.90 per cent from the 18.25 per cent (1.01 crore of 5.54 crore) of 2009. It was the party’s lowest vote share in the state, barring 1998.
Those who finished fourth include union ministers Salman Khurshid, Beni Prasad Verma, Jitin Prasada, Pradeep Jain Aditya; other sitting MPs such as Annu Tandon, Rajaram Pal and Harshavardhan; Ameeta Singh; and even state president Nirmal Kharti. The most shocking loss for Congress workers has been that of Beni, who was regarded as a “grassroots Kurmi leader” and spent a large share of his ministry’s “corporate social responsibility fund” in Gonda. Jitin had been regarded as “future leader in Uttar Pradesh”. And Annu Tandon, who had won by over 3 lakh votes last time, too came fourth.
Some of those who had worked on the ground feel that nothing from their end could have changed the result. There is in fact a feeling within the party that party workers had given up before the election.
“Whether one accepts it or not, a fake Hindutva wave created by the RSS at the last moment in a planned manner in every constituency brought about such results. There was nothing wrong with our campaign. People will repent this mandate, which is dangerous for the country,” said P L Punia, who got over 2.4 lakh votes in Barabanki but lost by margin of over 2 lakh votes to little-known BJP candidate Priyanka Singh Rawat. Punia was among only six candidates who came second.
“Despite some of our MPs having worked hard, most of them failed to compete even with the BSP and SP candidates, let alone the BJP that was riding a wave. Neither Muslims nor our own cadre believed in our victory and that is ominous for the party in the next assembly election.” said a Congress district president.
Beni said a comparison should be made only with the last assembly election, not the 2009 Lok Sabha election.
First-timers all, the four who defeated Ajit Singh, Jitin Prasda, P L Punia and Salman Khurshid in Uttar Pradesh:
Satyapal Singh defeated Ajit Singh of RLD in Baghpat. Born and brought up at Baraut in Baghpat, Satyapal went on to become Mumbai police chief but never counted himself an outsider, having stayed in touch with Baghpat throughout his career. He helped organise annual shooting annually and set up a club in 1998, which claims to have given 400 shooters to the country. He defeated the SP’s Ghulam Mohammed by two lakh votes and pushed Ajit Singh to third spot.
Rekha Verma of the BJP pushed incumbent MP Jitin Prasada of the Congress to fourth position, behind the SP and the BSP, in Dhaurahra. Born in Kanpur, Rekha married Arun Kumar Verma in 1996. Her husband joined the BJP last year and was in consideration for a Lok Sabha ticket until he died about four months ago after suffering a heart attack. “He was well liked here and after he passed away, the local people and party leaders felt that I should be given the ticket,” says Rekha Verma, 39. She says she will focus on issues such as problems of cane farmers and education of girls.
Priyanka Singh Rawat of the BJP defeated the Congress’s P L Punia by over 2 lakh votes in Barabanki. Once working with a news channel, she joined the BJP last June; her family is said to be politically active. Rawat, 28, earned an MA in political science in 2007 and a diploma in journalism (electronic media) in 2008. She campaigned extensively on social media, always keeping Narendra Modi’s image ahead of hers. Her husband Raghunath Rawat is with the Indian Revenue Services.
Mukesh Rajput of the BJP, who pushed the Congress’s Salman Khurshid to fourth place in Farrukhabad, was selected by Kalyan Singh. Rajput was the state vice-president in Kalyan’s Jan Kranti Party. He has also been a zilla panchayat president.