Just how much more insignificant can Congress get in UP?
Cong in UP
- Congress has been on a steady decline in UP
- It has to depend on SP to even save its pocket boroughs
More in the story
- What are the options open for the party?
- Is a tie-up with BSP on the cards?
There is, at last, some good news for the Congress from Uttar Pradesh. Party candidate Avdhesh Singh has won the Zila Panchayat president's election in Rae Bareli. He defeated his nearest rival, Samajwadi Party (SP) candidate Prabhat Sahu by 10 votes.
The state Congress unit can take solace in the fact that its roots are still intact in its pocket borough. Rae Bareli is also considered to be a SP stronghold. The Congress managed to clinch a close contest from the ruling party, despite fading increasingly into irrelevance.
Although, the taste of this victory was soured by an embarrassment in Amethi, Rahul Gandhi's parliamentary constituency. The party failed to even pose a challenge here. The Congress-supported candidate Krishna Chaurasia withdrew her nomination at the last moment, helping SP's Shivkali Maurya win unopposed.
State Congress leaders claimed that the withdrawal of Chaurasia's candidature was part of an understanding with the SP and the latter would return the favour in Rae Bareli. However, that did not happen and the Congress was left to fend for itself.
Avdhesh Singh, somehow, managed to salvage the party's pride in this high-profile constituency.
The Congress is trying hard to resurrect itself at the national level. But, the party leadership seems oblivious of its fast eroding support base, organisational structure as well as identity in Uttar Pradesh.
Both the top leaders of Congress barely venture outside their fiefdoms of Amethi and Rae Bareli. Rahul made some attempts to test the waters in western UP, but to no avail. If the party could save its face in Amethi and Rae Bareli during the last general elections, it was largely because of the benevolence of SP, which chose not to field candidates against Sonia and Rahul.
Although, the Congress still has two members of the Legislative Assembly from Amethi and one member of the Legislative Council from Rae Bareli, its survival is increasingly at the mercy of SP elsewhere.
The Congress has been reduced to playing second fiddle to the ruling party in UP
The party counts on Mulayam's support to save its representation from the state in Lucknow as well as in Delhi. This was evident when Congress leader Pramod Tiwari was sent to the Rajya Sabha with the tacit support of SP.
However, this magnanimity comes for a price. The Congress has been reduced to playing second fiddle to the ruling party in UP. The myopic approach of the high command has left the state party unit without any leader who can turn the tide in the party's favour. Every election seems like a farewell party to the Congress.
There was still some equanimity in Congress's relations with the SP as long as it was in power at the Centre. It could leverage the CBI against Mulayam and expect quid pro quo. Now, it is essentially a one-sided relationship as the Congress has little to offer in return for Mulayam's favours.
Meanwhile, speculations are rife that the Congress may ally with the Bahujan Samaj Party for the next Assembly elections. Nitish Kumar may mediate in forging an alliance.
But, sources say the Congress wants to claim at least 100 seats. It would not be easy to convince a hard bargainer like Mayawati to concede so many seats. So, there is little scope for a grand alliance on the lines of Bihar in UP.
This leaves Congress only with two options: either it should prepare to go alone or keep away altogether from the next Assembly elections.
Even Rahul Gandhi's ascension to the top is unlikely to change the party's fortunes in India's largest state. It has become non-existent on the political battleground of Uttar Pradesh.
It needs nothing short of a miracle to come out of this situation.
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