Ominous sign: what Rajya Sabha poll cross-voting says about Congress in UP
Predicting the fate of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh may have been made a bit easier by three of its Muslim legislators who did not vote for Kapil Sibal in the recently held Rajya Sabha election.
Nawab Kazim Ali Khan, Mohammad Muslim and Dilnawaz Khan instead voted for the BSP. That they chose the opposition party over the ruling SP also indicates that the latter's hold on Muslims may be loosening.
It wasn't just the Muslims who cross-voted, three Hindu legislators of the Congress voted in favour of the BJP. This presents a bleak outlook for the party, in which, according to Kazim Ali Khan, decision-making is highly bureaucratic.
"The Congress does not stand even an outside chance in the forthcoming election. Even if it wins some seats, the number would be too small to be a factor in government formation," Kazim Ali says.
So, presumably he's hedging his bets with the BSP. Switching loyalty comes easy to the the MLA from Swar Tanda, who has earlier been with the SP and the BSP
Asked why they voted for the BSP rather than the ruling party, Kazim Ali suggested it made no sense since the Akhilesh regime is set be voted out of power "due to poor law and order situation". His money is on Mayawati returning to power.
Mohammad Muslim, the MLA from Tiloi in Rae Bareli, Sonia Gandhi's Lok Sabha constituency, was upset with his leaders for their "disinterest" in party affairs in UP. "Those surrounding Sonia and Rahul are not letting them attend to organisational matters. I voted against the party to show them the mirror."
Also, the MLA thought it prudent to wager on the BSP as the "Congress is doomed". "Dharatal me jaa rahee hai," as he put it. The party's chief whip doesn't regret parting ways with the Congress even though he is unsure of getting a BSP ticket.
Split wide open
If the Muslim legislators tilted decisively towards the BSP, the Hindu MLAs went with the BJP. Does this betray the communal polarisation that the BJP is banking on to win UP?
Indeed, the cross-voting Muslim MLAs insist that the BSP is the only party that can keep the BJP from capturing power. The SP, they argue, has thrived on communal politics, which has only worked to the BJP's advantage.
So, it appears that the real fight in UP will be between the BJP and the BSP. The Congress is unlikely to attract many voters for the simple reason that it isn't seen as being in a position of strength. A lot of this, the rebel legislators say, is due to the "arrogance and indecisiveness of the party's central and state leaderships". "In UP, the legislators meet only before assembly sessions or when elections are due. The top leadership's inaccessibility brews rebellion. This cross-voting was a result of that," Kazim Ali says, complaining that the party didn't stand by him when he picked a fight with Azam Khan of the SP.
Asked about the latest setback, Congress spokesperson Satyadeo Tripathi said, "Ups and downs are part of politics." On the charges levelled by the rebel MLAs, he admitted that his party was in a pitiable state.
Is the Congress going downhill? "Aur kya," Tripathi replied, dismissing any hope of the party's revival in UP.