By Amulya Ganguli
At a time when the opposition should have had an easy run in U.P. in the aftermath of the Yogi Adityanath government’s mismanagement of the Covid crisis which set the alarm bells ringing in the RSS and the BJP camps, the poor performance of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Congress in the district council presidential elections of the panchayats has come as a surprise.
If anything, it shows how ill-prepared the two parties are in the matter of posing a serious challenge to the BJP even when it is under pressure and how the latter has remarkable organizational and political resilience to be able to overcome what had appeared not long ago as almost an existential crisis for the saffron party because of its multiple failures.
To be able to brush off the suspicion of criminal neglect of the medical infrastructure and draw the curtains down on the heart-rending scenes of people gasping for breath for the lack of oxygen and of the floating bodies on the Ganga underline the BJP’s reserves of support among the people who are apparently willing to forgive and forget the party’s lapses irrespective of their enormity.
In contrast to the BJP’s ability to stand its ground in the most adverse of circumstances, the SP and the Congress have revealed their weakness as political parties where striking roots among the people are concerned. It would appear that they live an isolated existence, out of touch with the masses and lacking in the resolve to recover lost ground and put up a spirited fight against the “enemy”.
The poor showing of the two parties is all the more surprising because only a few weeks ago, the SP fared quite successfully in the panchayat polls at a lower level, pipping the BJP at the post and emerging as the first party in the contest. Its ally, the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), also performed well, showing that it has retained the support of the Jat community. Not unexpectedly, the Congress fell by the wayside to confirm that the party is losing ground because of the failure of its leaders at the national and state levels to enthuse the party workers with ideas and energy.
More than the SP, which remains a force in U.P. with its Yadav-Muslim base and will probably be able to claw its way back into reckoning after the latest setback, the Congress can be said to be in serious trouble with its losses in the Amethi and Rae Bareli redoubts of the Nehru-Gandhi family. Having earlier withdrawn from Amethi and contested from Wayanad in Kerala, Rahul Gandhi should have kept in touch with the party workers in his former constituency to ensure that it does not totally slip out of the Congress’s grasp as the latest outcome shows.
But the habit of operating from a distance – Rahul from his Tughlaq Lane residence in New Delhi and Priyanka Gandhi from her penthouse in Gurugram – is hardly the way to rejuvenate a palpably moribund organization. While the SP is expected to remain preoccupied with safeguarding its provincial base, the Congress’s national ambitions have received yet another blow in U.P. after the party’s failures to make a mark in Kerala, Puducherry and Assam. Even as Sharad Pawar and others are harping on the need for the Congress to be a pivot of a national alliance against the BJP, the party itself seems unwilling to pull itself up by its bootstraps and regain some of its earlier influence.
No one can say whether the U.P. results will make it realize the need to put its own house in order by reining in the warring factions in Punjab, Rajasthan and Karnataka. Indira Gandhi was suspected at one time of encouraging such rivalries in the state units so that the group leaders will remain embroiled in their squabbles and not pose a challenge to the leader at the centre. But that was when the Congress was the master of all its surveyed and there was no other party which was a serious competitor. It’s different today when the factionalism highlights the helplessness of the so-called high command to stop the infighting.
Even if mutual dislikes prevent the opposition parties from fighting the BJP unitedly, they can at least ensure that there is no bitterness among them, thereby making it possible for the SP, the Congress and the RLD to engage in friendly fights so that the BJP does not enjoy the luxury of a runaway success in next year’s assembly election.
The BJP has high stakes in the contest because the fate of its future national leader in saffron robes will depend on the outcome in U.P. Since the hardline monk-politician is a favourite of the RSS, the “cultural” organization will put in all its efforts in tandem with the BJP to ensure Yogi Adityanath’s success. The least the opposition can do is to frustrate the RSS-BJP by closing its ranks as far as possible. (IPA Service)