By Nitya Chakraborty
In March/April 2021, India witnessed a sort of Kurukshetra battle in the soil of West Bengal which is far away from Aryavartha, the Hindi heartland and the epi-centre of both the Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata..Prime Minister Narendra Modi lost that battle to the Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee on May 2 this year. But the BJP supremo and Hindu Hriday Samrat is now engrossed in strategising for the next battle- a sort of semi final before the final in early 2024.
This is the state assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh scheduled in February/March 2022.During the same time, elections are being held to another four states, Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur. But for super planner, Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, winning Uttar Pradesh in 2022 assembly elections, is a must for the future of the BJP as the outcome will have catalytic effect on the course of political developments in the next two years leading to the Lok Sabha poll in 2024.UP is now BJP’s own turf and unlike, Bengal, Modi and the other non- UP leaders like Shah are not bahiragatas (outsiders) as was made out by his rivals during campaign in Bengal elections.
In Uttar Pradesh elections which are only eight months away, the main rival of the BJP is the Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav who won the 2012 assembly elections and ruled UP as the Chief Minister for five years before the BJP trounced the SP and other parties in 2017 assembly elections and Yogi Adityanath took over as the Chief Minister. Now SP led by Akhilesh is poised to challenge Modi-Adityanath combination in the 2022 assembly elections which can be considered more important for the Sangh parivar compared to the earlier battle in Bengal. The Sangh Parivar, by any costs, cannot allow UP slip away from their control. The UP has to be won, come what may.
Here in lies the importance of Akhilesh Yadav. He is the main opposition face in Uttar Pradesh politics. He has silently worked along with the smaller allies for building a front against the BJP government. He has taken political advantage of the erosion of the BSP base in the recent years. The SP leader has maintained a safe distance from the Congress led by Priyanka Gandhi in UP, though he has good personal rapport with her. The former CM cannot forget his disastrous experience in having an alliance with the Congress in 2017 assembly elections.
Nearly8months before the assembly elections are due to begin, the SP is in a position to meet the challenge of the BJP but the Party needs the whole hog support from other opposition parties who are planning to dethrone Narendra Modi in 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Reports are that Sharad Pawar and Mamata’s envoy Prasant Kishor discussed about opposition unity in Mumbai home of Pawar last week. Not a bad beginning, but this is very very inadequate.
The opposition leaders led by Sharad Pawar, Mamata, Hemant Soren, M K Stalin and Uddhav Thackeray have to be fully with Akhilesh in Lucknow to show solidarity. The UP battle is not just the battle of the SP to form government in the state. It is a battle of much wider dimension in the Indian polity. UP has 80 seats for Lok Sabha and the political mood of the UP electorate will be a determining factor in deciding about the shape of the government after 2024 elections. The election battle in UP is not just SP’s, it is the battle of the entire opposition and the non-Congress non BJP opposition have to take this UP battle as their own battle.
BJP is flush with funds centrally and the CM Yogi Adityanath has also collected huge funds for financing the assembly elections.BJP leaders are exploring all possibilities to bring into fold other smaller parties having some bases. In fact, indications from the series of meetings held by Sangh Parivar suggest that BJP will go all out to entice few more Congress leaders and some influential base level workers of BSP. Jitin Prasada is just the beginning, the BJP is scouting for some more influential leaders from the Congress. For the Sangh parivar, this is a do or die battle in Uttar Pradesh.
As regards the Congress, the organisational mess is still continuing. Priyanka Gandhi made some initial impact as secretary in charge of UP. Some activities have been there but these are very inconsequential compared to the enormity of the tasks involved. Just by releasing tweets every day against Modi or Yogi, the organisational expansion cannot take place. UP is a state with nearly 20 crore population. For that, the person in charge has to be on move 24×7. The leaders should learn from Modi and Mamata. They may differ politically but both of them are devoted to political activities full time, even while discharging governmental duties. Priyanka got a big opportunity to revamp the UP Congress, but she has failed to come up to expectations.
In 2022, Congress as the only national level opposition party has the task to challenge BJP in the assembly elections in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur. In all these states, the Congress is the main opponent of BJP in all the states. In Punjab, the Congress is ruling and despite dissensions, the Party is in a position to retain power as BJP will fight separately after a long time. Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has now left BJP alliance and has tied up with BSP. In Goa, Congress has to reenergize its organization, Last time, it missed the majority due to the callousness of its central leaders. This time, it has to be vigilant. There is possibility provided the right leadership is there.
In Uttarakhand, the ruling BJP is riven with dissensions, but so is Congress. The UK voters are angry and the BJP government is facing anti-incumbency. But so far, the central leadership is not showing any determination to prepare the UK Congress for a decisive win. The same is with Manipur where the Congress was outmanouvred by the BJP last time despite the GOP becoming the largest single party. The Congress leadership lacks that winning determination. Otherwise, in the current period when the Modi charisma is on the wane, the Congress had a good chance to win in all the three BJP ruled states, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur.
Coming back To Uttar Pradesh, all democratic and secular persons will like the emergence of a front led by the SP and including the Congress. But this is only possible if the Congress leadership becomes pragmatic about the extent of their real strength. The Congress was responsible for the loss of Bihar for opposition in 2020 assembly elections. The party bargained for a large number of seats and fared miserably. In Tamil Nadu only, it fared well in this 2021 assembly elections, but the credit will go to its major ally DMK. In all other states, Kerala, Assam and Bengal, the party lost.In Bengal, for the first time, the party did not get a single seat. This leads to the issue – if SP agrees there can be an understanding on seats but for that the Congress should be ready for seats , according to its real ground level strength.
So that way, in Uttar Pradesh, for all practical purposes, the SP has to be considered as the king of opposition. The party must have the powers to decide on allies and the number of seats. In fact, the anti-BJP alliance will be highly benefitted if the SP brings the two left parties CPI and the CPI(M) into the front also. These two parties have their own pockets and influence, though limited, in a number of constituencies. Further, the inclusion of Left in the anti-BJP alliance will help in sharpening the focus of the common minimum programme. Akhilesh Yadav is now poised to play a historic role on the lines of Mamata Banerjee. The SP leader has to add every weapon, big or small, to his arsenal, to fight the BJP in the 2022 elections. His failure or success will decide which way Delhi will move after 2024 elections. (IPA Service)