Not Rahul; Time for Priyanka in Uttar Pradeshtext_fields
Besides hoping to overturn the BJP and it's forming a government in Uttar Pradesh in the upcoming state assembly elections, the Congress party has other important goals. Assured that they cannot ascend to power in Uttar Pradesh contesting alone, the party is setting its eyes on the 2024 Lok Sabha polls even as the assembly elections are closing in.
Realising that the upcoming elections would be a fierce battle as never seen before between different poles, the Congress is attempting to adapt to the situation. The path is being led by AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi in the vanguard as the one also in charge of the state. Therefore, if the election does not yield promising results, it will be a blow to the confidence of the party.
The Congress' campaign in Uttar Pradesh is starkly different from its two previous campaigns in the state. After the good performance in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Congress put up a disappointing performance in the 2012 and 2017 assembly elections. Congress has clarified that it is interested in allying with the Samajwadi party like before. However, the SP has not responded to this yet.
In both the 2012 and 2017 assembly elections, Rahul Gandhi was the face of the Congress party. That has changed this time; Priyanka Gandhi is the party's trump card in the state. Her house arrest in the Lakhimpur Kheri incident, her visit to the families of those killed and her grand rally in Modi's hometown Varanasi have earned her great respect and love. The Quint has reported that people are now conversing more about Priyanka Gandhi and the Congress. With Priyanka's arrival, the party was shaken awake till the very grassroots.
Meanwhile, a section of leaders have pointed out that the Congress party's problem in Uttar Pradesh cannot be resolved with a few visits from Priyanka. The party is not facing up to several issues. Many influential leaders have left the party. Several are planning to quit. They claim that the number of leaders associated with Priyanka Gandhi is very small and that PCC president Ajay Kumar Lallu and some other leaders are trying to keep other leaders away from the party.
No social base or vote bank
The primary challenge of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh is the lack of a social base. The party does not have a solid vote bank in the state. The BJP's vote bank includes upper castes and a section of the OBC community. Yadavs and a major portion of the Muslim community is the vote bank of the Samajwadi Party. The Jats are with the BSP.
The Congress is formulating moves in the state, keeping in mind the over 18 per cent votes it garnered in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. In the state which decides the path of Indian politics, Congress is attempting to find a place along with the leading contestants. The party is attempting to bring close the Kurmis, Brahmins, and other savarna castes who stood with them in the 2009 polls. Together with this, the party is also attempting to appease a large population of Muslims and Dalits, not including the Yadavs.
As part of this, the Congress appointed Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Singh Baghel as UP's senior observer. One among the Congress' prominent OBC leaders, Baghel belongs to the Kurmi community. The Congress will also wield that they appointed a Dalit leader as the Chief Minister of Punjab in the upcoming elections.
As per the latest C-voter survey, the Congress will win 5.6% votes and 3-7 seats in the upcoming elections. This is a 0.6% rise as compared to the C-Voter survey of September. The Congress received 6.2% votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
However, one of the leaders vouching for the party's activities in the state claims that the party will achieve a victory greater than the one predicted by the C-voter survey. The party assumes that though not as the two leading parties in the state, the party can still accumulate a larger vote percentage. The leader added that the survey is also underestimating the number of seats that the Congress would win. He claimed that the number of seats won by the party would cross over to two digits this time.
Competition in chosen seats
Congress does not have a presence all over Uttar Pradesh. Hence, the party will be competing in selected seats. The aim is to concentrate all their efforts and time into seats with the potential for victory.
The party has selected two kinds of seats for this. One is seats with strong Congress leaders. The second is where they can pose the greatest challenge to the BJP. Congress employed a similar strategy back in the Lok Sabha elections of 2009. Reports hint that the party would be focusing its attention on 80-100 seats of the 403 seats in the UP state assembly.
The war of 2024
The last time the Congress won over 10% votes in the UP assembly was in 1991. After 1993, it won more than 10 per cent votes in 2012- 11.6%. Then, the Congress was the government at the Centre. Rahul Gandhi was the face of the campaign in the state.
In the 1999 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress won 14.7 per cent votes and ten seats. In 2009, they showcased their strength and managed 21 seats and 18.3 per cent votes. But in 2014 and 2019, the results were very adverse for the Congress.
The Congress is more focused on the Lok Sabha elections than the state assembly. The party always puts forth a better performance at the Lok sabha level than the assembly level. The Congress is struggling with the absence of a leader of the likes of Mulayam Singh, Mayawati, Kalyan Singh, Akhilesh Yadav, or Yogi Adityanath. With the arrival of Priyanka Gandhi, the Congress is now prepping the ground for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections with the 2022 assembly polls.