Congress insiders believe that with the Samajwadi Party facing internecine struggles and the BSP leader Mayawati’s diminishing electoral numbers, Congress sees great potential in Rahul-Priyanka and Jyotiraditya Scindia as modern, acceptable and governance-centric forces who can rescue UP from the stranglehold of caste and communal politics. The despondency with Yogi Adityanath over his inability to address agrarian distress, particularly in the sugarcane sector, and the lack of jobs is fuelling silent rage. The centralisation of power has left BJP MPs dysfunctional in their own constituencies, where the right-wing forces, the RSS-VHP-Bajrang Dal-ABVP stir the communal cauldron.
Marginal players like the Mahan Dal, Peace Party, the Rajbhars and the multiple EBC formations are waiting to be accommodated in the power matrix. This is where the Congress can cash in, offer seats to all such forces at the receiving end of the Yogi sarkar. Along with a base vote of 10%, all that the Congress needs is a potential 10% more to swing in 20 additional seats largely in East UP. The reason that the Congress will be in the reckoning in nearly 20 seats is because of complete marginalisation of OBCs, EBCs and Muslims/Dalits under Yogi. While the Yadavs once dominated the police and administration, now it is the Thakurs who rule the roost. The Brahmins are livid at being ignored by the BJP. Similarly, the non-Yadav OBC and the non-Jatav SCs were the ones who catapulted BJP to victory in 2017. This large uncommitted section, along with Brahmins and Muslims, alienated by the Yogi sarkar are ripe for the picking. A 25% convergence of the non-Yadav OBC, non-Jatav SC, marginalised EBC and disillusioned upper castes along with Muslims in certain pockets can revive the Congress. A gain of 15 seats is on the cards.
Mulayam spoiler alert
The Congress outreach to non-Yadav OBCs seems to have upset Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav. ‘Netaji’ is unhappy with son Akhilesh Yadav, who is currently calling the shots in Samajwadi parivar. Mulayam’s move to praise Prime Minister Narendra Modi inside Lok Sabha was to disapprove of Akhilesh’s bonhomie with Mayawati and tacit understanding [rather non-opposition] with the Congress. As a seasoned and crafty politician, Mulayam is opposed to granting any space to Priyanka Gandhi-led Congress in the home state. His calculations are simple. A strong BJP is a prerequisite for Samajwadi success. Old-timers may recall that Samajwadis’ affection for Muslims in Uttar Pradesh was missing in the 1960s Ram Manohar Lohia years. It gained momentum after Emergency and Babri Masjid-Ram Janambhoomi movement becoming potent political issues. In Modi-Yogi Adityanath era, Muslim vote is increasingly becoming irrelevant in Uttar Pradesh prompting old war-horse Mulayam to attempt consolidation of backward classes.