By Sushil Kutty
For the Congress, the dinner was ‘last’ night, the realization was ‘this’ morning. That was because in the line-up of the UPA, assuming that it will be an alliance of the UPA including the BSP and the SP in 2019, where does Rahul Gandhi and his Congress Party stand in the leadership stakes? Who will lead the alliance come 2019 with such egos as Mayawati and Mamata Banerjee prone to play second to none? Especially, after the Congress has nothing to show for the Sonia dinner.
The realization on Wednesday morning was also that the acclaimed election machine of Modi & Shah broke down completely in Gorakhpur and Phulpur. And Yogi Adityanath after a year in power in UP was being told he’s not the superman he thinks he is. This was the man who went to Karnataka and Kerala to speak his mind, win voters over, and he cannot even hold on to his own cattle-ground of Gorakhpur! Specifically in Gorakhpur and in Phulpur to an extent, two Lok Sabha constituencies where bypolls were held, Yogi was on the mat in both constituencies, and with him tasting dust were Modi and Amit Shah.
The SP-BSP alliance was throwing up unlikely trends, denting the public perception of Modi and highlighting the private misery of Rahul Gandhi. A one-liner from the SP’s Ramgopal Yadav told the story “Aage Aage Dekhiye Hota Hai Kya”, for both the BJP and the Congress.
The Congress Party was already looking at “Aage Aage…” By noon it was “ready” to join the SP and BSP. The fact of the matter was, Rahul Gandhi and the Congress were left with no choice. That said, the UP-bypolls were symbolic to many a political stalwart – Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati, Yogi Adityanath, BP Maurya, Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. The only winners among this lot: Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati, the rest were left in coats of dust.
The Congress count at the end of the day in the two seats in UP, even in seats in Bihar, was pathetic, fourth position at best. The Congress was nowhere in the leadership stakes and that was something Rahul Gandhi will have to swallow with his pride. Let’s admit it, and let the Congress face it, political equations in India’s most populous and politically important state, Uttar Pradesh, just do not favour the Congress.
Anti-BJP votes in Uttar Pradesh are split between the SP and BSP. All that these two parties have to do is to cobble a two-party alliance to give a stiff challenge to the BJP, maybe even sweep the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in UP. An SP-BSP alliance does not need the Congress. On the contrary, it will draw every Congress vote to its fold the minute a SP-BSP alliance for the 2019 general elections is announced.
The BJP’s current Prime Minister Narendra Modi and its PM-after-Modi Yogi Adityanath would also have to look at the tarot cards. Both these leaders, a guru-chela combination, were seeing the popular vote working against them a mere 12 months after the BJP sweeping the assembly elections.
Only Modi and Shah saw the promise in the Yogi, the people did not. His brand of Hindutva affected the lives of both Muslims and Hindus, intertwined as it is for centuries of give and take. Shutting abattoirs hits the economic fortunes of both Hindus and Muslims alike. And the youth did not like the Romeo squads and not being allowed to cheat in exams.
The ebb and flow of fortunes in elections is so stark: Just the other day it was the euphoria of Tripura; the very next day it was the Lotus wilting in Yogi’s Gorakhpur, and in Phulpur, the Lok Sabha constituency which was won by the BJP’s deputy chief minister BP Maurya by more than a lakh votes in 2014.
Yogi Adityanath to be tested in UP where the slogan runs “Jo Yogi-Yogi Bolega…” is telling. And Rahul Gandhi was tested all over, from Singapore to 10, Janpath-24 Akbar Road. The low voter turnout in Phulpur and most of that turnout coming from rural areas should tell the BJP the sad story. BJP supporters opted to stay home in the BJP’s urban strongholds and give the SP-BSP a walkover, why? The answer: Shah and his election machine did not even try to manage booths as it should have done, as it did in earlier elections whether in UP or in Tripura.
Something peculiar was happening in Gorakhpur, which was Yogi Adityanath’s Lok Sabha constituency, where the media was barred from entering counting centres and where “counting updates” were not given out after the first round of counting. What was happening? A setback in Phulpur was okay in as much as Phulpur never voted saffron except in 2014 and in the last assembly elections and was only reverting to form. But the same could not be said of Gorakhpur, which has been a Yogi-stronghold for upwards of 15-20 years. By 1 pm on Wednesday (March 14), the SP-BSP alliance was winning big-time! Was it arithmetic or chemistry at work in Gorakhpur? The dead children of Gorakhpur were getting back at Yogi Adityanath. By the look of it, the mirror was being shown to the BJP. Very-very interesting.
Very-very interesting because along with Rahul Gandhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also isolated for rejection in UP. A similar story was unfolding in Bihar, where the BJP-JD(U) combine got drubbed. The writing was on the wall –Modi and Rahul. Losers both. By noon the Congress decided to join the SP-BSP alliance. That’s more than a dinner date. That said, the Congress has been with nothing left to do except position itself somewhere lower down in an anti-BJP alliance. And Modi can muse on where to retire to, Jerusalem or Abu Dhabi. Or, maybe, just maybe, Mayawati tells Akhilesh to go take a hike, on his bicycle! (IPA Service)