As Congress floored the red carpet for the most awaited political debut, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra along with Rahul Gandhi have announced the poll campaign from the capital of Uttar Pradesh, which is being said to be the ‘masterstroke’ ahead of 2019 elections.
Will it affect the core vote base of SP-BSP and the BJP or the ‘masterstroke’ will boomerang? In a wide scenario, the Congress party has remained out of power from UP since last 29 years and it was only in 1984, under Rajiv Gandhi, they helmed the state.
For Congress, it appears to be a win-win situation, where after loosing almost all the seats in 2014 Lok Sabha elections (except Amethi and Raebareli), playing out their ‘trump card’ now when a wave of anti-Modi voices have garnered support can be a boon for the party. Rahul Gandhi’s attempt to topple the government by attacking PM Narendra Modi and BJP over Rafale and other issues have received considerable support on ground and on the social media.
Now, the grand old party is in a churning mode and have realized that giving more space to the regional players like JD(S), RJD, RLSP, DMK etc. would be beneficial in the long run. Rahul Gandhi, who has been in an image makeover mode after becoming the President of the Congress, has coined several slogans over a period of time which trended on social media and made space for national headlines, like ‘Vikas Pagal Ho Gaya Hai’ and ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai.’
One of the major aspect which made Narendra Modi win in 2014 was capturing the media’s narrative and cameras, he was giving interviews, became the cover story of national magazines and eventually, was seen everywhere around. The same idea has been borrowed by Rahul Gandhi, who is being covered by the media after being neglected for over 4 years (section of media) and has featured on the cover page of several magazines.
What led to this turn-around? As Congress won the Hindi heartland in December 2018 and BJP was decimated in its own bastion, the perspective and the facts of the matter changed. Media started covering rallies and press conferences of Rahul Gandhi and it became an X factor for the Gandhi scion.
New chief ministers of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh were made after consultation from Priyanka Gandhi, and it was speculated that she might play a big role in the upcoming elections. Launching her, ahead of the big polls, might not bring a transforming change in the votes of Congress party but the traditional Congress voter and those who are searching an alternative would look up to the party once again, seeking a hope that the new entrant might change the outlook of the region.
Eastern Uttar Pradesh has been voting on the lines of caste and the SP-BSP alliance does not offer much to the Congress and neither the BJP’s core vote bank. The Congress’ high command would be looking to field at least 40 Upper Caste candidates if they contest on 80 seats, or give away a few to the local players like Shivpal Yadav, Raghuraj Pratap Singh, who have recently floated their own outfits.
Congress received 9% votes in 2014 election but had garnered 22 seats in 2009 Lok Sabha polls which helped the UPA to form the government at the center. SP-BSP hold the jaatvs, non-jaatvs, Dalits, OBC’s and Muslims clubbed into their vote bank and the BJP would hit towards the Thakurs, Brahmins and the OBC’s. It would be tough for the Congress to penetrate into the core voters conscience but the new insight, offered by Priyanka Gandhi can be a major asset for the seat.
The Muslim vote, which traditionally would go to the SP-BSP, might feel a punch after the entry of re-energized Congress and therefore, can benefit the BJP as it’ll split in such scenario. Likewise, if Congress is able to capture the Upper Caste votes then the BJP’s vote bank would get affected and the SP-BSP might benefit. It appears to be a big bonanza for the Congress in a win-win situation.
The pertinent question remains whether Priyanka Gandhi’s presence can offer a viable alternative to the voter and whether she can convert the anti-incumbency into seats, as it is being predicted by the poll pundits that she would certainly help in uplifting the vote share of the Congress.