UP Polls: Will Rahul Gandhi's Charm Work for Congress?
Daijiworld Media Network - Lucknow
Lucknow, Jan 20: The million dollar question doing the rounds in Nehru Bhawan, the office of Uttar Pradesh Congress Commitee (UPCC) is - Will Rahul Gandhi be able to add another '2' to the existing tally of Congress which is 23?
Perhaps, the writing on the wall is clear. Every Congressmen knows it but is shying from the truth. "If there is a wave all the asses may win and if there is no wave even the horses will lose," comments a senior officebearer of Congress.
So, is Rahul's charisma really working for Congress in UP? The 41-year-old Congress yuvraj has taken deep interest in UP's politics. After all, he represents the state in Lok Sabha. He is also touted as the PM in waiting.
It is true that Congress is also not certain about the results of the elections. As in Lok Sabha elections 2009 where it won 22 MPs unexpectedly, if they really had guessed it right they would have contested all the seats.
Post 2009 elections, Rahul handpicked six union ministers from the state. One MP P L Punia was also accorded cabinet minister rank by making him Chairman of National Commission for SC/ST. However, within a span of a few months, two union ministers RPN Singh (Padrauna) and Pradeep Jain Aditya (Jhansi) could not retain the seat for Congress.
At another bypoll, Lakhimpur MP Zafar Ali Naqvi's son could not cross the 2500 votes mark in his home district.
The message was clear, Congress still needed oxygen to survive. Rahul again picked up the threads and started strengthening organisational elections. Elections were held in Youth Congress and for other office-bearers. Rahul too sprang surprises by spending nights at Dalits' homes and visiting the Bhatta Parsaul village in Noida embroiled in farmer's agitation. It once again appeared Congress was rejuvenating.
However, the joy was short-lived. In the ticket list nearly 25 percent tickets went to turncoats. There were instances when candidates joined Congress in the morning and got the ticket in the afternoon. The organisational structure was again jeoparadised. Congress did not find it suitable to field its state presidents of various frontal organisations. All - minority cell, youth, women cell, backward cell chiefs - were denied tickets while preference was given to turncoats.
Amidst these odds, Rahul started his campaign. His rallies started from November 14 at Phoolpur in Allahabad, a constituency which was once represented by his grandfather and former PM Pt Jawaharlal Nehru.
Rahul locked horns directly with chief minister Mayawati. Corruption issue prevailed in his speeches which also had sprinkling of 'an elephant eating your money'. However, his remark - 'people from UP are beggars and go to Mumbai for begging' gave ammunition to opposition. Posters were put up asking him to take back his words.
Unfazed, Rahul continued with his journey. However, the plank of development did not cut ice with the people of UP which is marred by caste politics. Though Congress too has fielded enough OBCs it failed to get mileage. The result, his recent rallies in Bundelkhand were a flop. Many of them were attended by just a couple of hundred people.
Three years ago, he had toured the same Bundelkhand area and given them special package which included even free tractors. But this time, the response was poor. In once such meeting at Banda, Rahul left the rally midway when some youths showed black flags.
Prior to it, Rahul tried to test his skills in eastern region of the state. He reached Azamgarh but the people there were still afresh with memories of Batla House encounter. He was gheroed in his guest house. Digvijay Singh came to his rescue and stated that the encounter was fake only to be disowned. Rahul's 3,000 crore package for weavers too failed to create any magic in the region.
Further adding to the agonies of Congress, BJP announced candidature of Uma Bharti from Charkhari in Mahoba in Bundelkhand region. Rahul's immediate response terming her as an 'outsider' also was equally retorted by Uma Bharti. Congress committed another self goal by giving another chance to BJP in starting a war of words. Little did they realise that BJP's think tank had planned to engage Rahul in direct war of words.
Besides this, the harakiri committed by Congress in the form of Muslim reservation also did the remaining damage. Union law minister Salman Khurshid announced 9 percent reservation only to face flak from the election commission.
Left with no option, Priyanka was roped in to provide succour. She toured the Amethi, Raibareilly constituencies with an emotional appeal to give all ten seats there to Congress. It had happened only in 1985 after Indira Gandhi's assaisination and is hard for Congress to repeat.
Now both Rahul and Priyanka have returned to New Delhi, perhaps to regroup and start afresh. Digivijay Singh is taking guard at Nehru Bhawan in Lucknow while Congressmen await a miracle in their constituencies.