AS THE results came in on Saturday, the Congress struggled to explain its worst-ever performance in Uttar Pradesh since Independence, reduced to seven seats and 6.2 per cent vote share. Many party leaders said the reason was the last-minute alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP), without proper coordination at the grassroots. The two parties contested against each other on as many as 20 seats, where candidates of both parties refused to withdraw. The Congress won none of those seats, while the SP won two — Gauriganj in Amethi and Unchahar in Rae Bareli. All the other 18 seats went to the BJP or its partner Apna Dal.
The BJP also made inroads into the Gandhi bastions of Amethi and Rae Bareli after a decade, winning six out of 10 seats here. The Congress won two and the SP the remaining two. BJP president Amit Shah mentioned the party’s performance in the two areas in his post-results press meeting. The SP’s vote share too fell, from 29.13 per cent in 2012 to 21.8 per cent.
The Congress had won 28 seats, with 11.65 per cent vote share, in 2012. Its lowest vote share before this, 8.35 per cent, had been in 1996. But even in that election, where it had contested just 126 seats in an alliance with the BSP, the Congress had won 33.
“We are trying to find a word to define it. It is certainly a big jolt, a jhatka,” Congress state president Raj Babbar said.
While he hinted at “some mischief”, Babbar denied that the result showed failure of the alliance with the SP. “Mayawati was not a part of the alliance but even she has lost badly. As I said, we are finding a word other than ‘landslide victory’ to explain this.”
However, Congress workers pointed out the confusion over the tie-up with the SP as the party had based its campaign earlier on criticism of the Akhilesh Yadav government. Many say either the Congress should not have undertaken the month-long ‘27 saal, UP behal’ campaign or should not have entered into the alliance at such a late stage.
“We had sown the seeds of UP needing a change, but the BJP reaped it as we ended up in an alliance with the SP,” a Congress leader said. “Also, we tried to take Brahmins along by fielding Sheila Dikshit as the CM candidate, and after she had moved all across the state, sidelined her from the picture. The public notices all these things.”
A section within the party feels that sidelining of Dikshit along with the tie-up with the SP sent out the message that the Congress was targeting the Muslim vote, like its partner. This helped the BJP, the leaders said, as even the BSP was targeting Muslims.
Congress leaders also blamed the “reluctance” on behalf of senior leaders, especially Priyanka Gandhi, to campaign in Amethi and Rae Bareli for the losses, apart from the SP fielding candidates against the Congress on four seats. Priyanka, who has managed the election from here in the past, attended just two meetings here and addressed only one. In the only seat where she addressed a rally, Bachawaran, the Congress’s Sahab Saran lost to BJP candidate Ram Naresh Rawat.
Others in the Congress, however, said that more than Priyanka’s absence, Akhilesh’s dominance of the area explains the results. In 2012, the SP had won seven of the 10 seats, while the Congress had won two. The Congress’s only two winners from Amethi and Rae Bareli were Aditi Singh in Rae Bareli Sadar and Rakesh Singh in Harchandpur.