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    Congress hoping to repeat 2009 show in UP?

    Synopsis

    Congress won an impressive 22 seats in UP, leapfrogging BSP and BJP in terms of constituencies won, and remaining only a seat behind the Samajwadi Party.

    NEW DELHI: Congress, which lost power in Uttar Pradesh in the late 1980s, and turned a fringe player for the next two decades, confounded political pundits by pulling off a stunning performance in the 2009 general election.

    With its campaign being spearheaded by the mother-son duo of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, the party won an impressive 22 seats in the state, leapfrogging BSP and BJP in terms of constituencies won, and remaining only a seat behind the Samajwadi Party.

    The tally was one of the factors that helped Congress win 205 seat in the Lok Sabha. It instilled confidence in the party think-tank that it could prepare the recovery roadmap in a state which sends 80 members to the Lower House of Parliament and which could determine whether the party could come to power on its own at the Centre.

    Congress' victory march started from Moradabad in the west, touching most districts on the Indo-Nepal border right up to Kushinagar in the east, and covering central constituencies of Gonda, Bahraich, Barabanki and the Gandhi family strongholds of Rae Bareli, Amethi, Sultanpur and Pratapagarh, apart from Kanpur and Farrukhabad on the orther end of Avadh.

    Only Firozabad at the cusp of central and western UP, and Jhansi in the Bundelkhand region remained outside this contiguous belt. Congress, which could win only 22 seats in the 2007 assembly election in UP, led in 95 assembly segments in the Lok Sabha polls. The 8.61% vote-share in 2007 reached 18.25% in 2009, prompting many in the party to start nursing the belief that the party would return to power in the state after two decades if the momentum was sustained.

    Congress' success story in UP in 2009 was woven around a carefully-crafted strategy of wooing upper castes, non-Yadav OBCs, particularly Kurmis, and Muslims. The blueprint was prepared on the assumption that upper castes were disillusioned with BSP and were looking for alternative political platforms, Muslims were angry with SP for embracing Kalyan Singh, the most visible face of the Ayodhya movement, and that Kurmis, having tested both BJP and BSP, were scouting around for a fresh anchoring slot.

    Most of the 22 constituencies that the party bagged had a significant presence of Kurmis and Muslims. They included Kheri, Bareilly, Gonda, Bahraich, Barabanki, Kanpur, Maharajganj, Akbarpur, Dhaurahra and Faizabad. The party brass rewarded Kurmis by inducting their leader Beni Prasad Verma as a Cabinet minister in the Manmohan Singh government.

    Party managers are now working hard to consolidate the gains. With the campaign for the next round of electoral battle being mastermined by Rahul Gandhi, Congress is trying to break the M-Y (Muslim-Yadav) alliance built by SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav by promising 9% quota in government jobs and educational institutions for Muslims.

    It is also trying to do a Nitish Kumar by attempting to lure the Most Backward Castes and non-Jatav Dalits, who have largely been denied benefits of reservation, into the party fold. Rahul Gandhi, who has been trying assiduously to revive Congress' organisational structure, has also been hardselling the Manmohan Singh government's initiatives in rural employment generation, food security, rural connectivity, land acquisition and education.

    Opinion is divided whether Congress would be able sustain the momentum. "One Lok Sabha constituency in UP is roughly equivalent to five assembly seats. Going by the trend emerging from the previous general election, this would translate into 100 assembly segments. But arithmetics does not necessarily translate into politics, which is a different ballgame altogether,'' argued Ashutosh Mishra, Reader in Political Science at Lucknow University, adding, "Congress will find it extremely difficult to repeat that kind of performance. He attributed three main impediments in Congress' plans.

    "In the Lok Sabha election, Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav were not projecting themselves as prime ministerial candidates. Their horizon is limited to UP politics. The voters did not vote with that sentiment in mind,'' Mishra said.

    For SP and BSP, the coming assembly polls, he maintained, was a battle for survival. "Their cadre is working hard to ensure that their parties stayed afloat,'' he pointed out. Again, between 2009 and now, the Congress-led UPA had, Mishra contended, lost much of its sheen because of the scams. "The series of scandals have dented Congress' image,'' Mishra asserted. Unlike BSP and SP, Congress in UP, he said, was running a faceless campaign. "True, Rahul Gandhi has been spearheading the party's recovery march. But there was no obvious chief ministerial candidate,'' he said.

    Congress spokesman Manish Tewari, however, disagreed: "The party is going into the elections with the intent of positioning itself as a serious alternative to form the government. Therefore, keeping this broad objective in mind, we have worked out a strategy, and it will be our endeavour to expose the shortcomings of the BSP government and also highlight the ideational bankruptcy of the SP,'' he said.

    The strategy revolved around trying to win back the confidence of the people, he said.

    "Ever since Congress demitted office in 1989, there has hardly been any development worth the name in UP. It has always been competing for the bottom ranking in the pecking order of states. Therefore, it is an attempt to drive the developmental agenda if Congress was voted to power,'' the party spokesman added.
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    2 Comments on this Story

    Indian3336 days ago
    Please also remember that EVM's are not tamper proof. 2009 general election results were widely a result of this, mother son duo had no rule except to pay some news channels to brand them as saviors of India and how they have rejuvenated India.
    Hope this time tables are turned.
    Suv3339 days ago
    Congress can win only in backward states where thr is no education or awareness. Does UP fall in that category???
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