The ides of March have fascinated us since the days of the Romans and March the tenth will be the day results are declared for the biggest election of them all in India — results of the Uttar Pradesh (UP) polls 2022.
It’s a cliché repeated often by op-ed writers that Lucknow is the only road to Delhi. What they mean is that the real heartland power flows from those 80 Lok Sabha (parliamentary) seats that ensure that UP decides who rules India.
Perhaps that’s the reason that the two Gandhi siblings have been locked in a fruitless unreciprocated romance with UP. Despite repeated rejections they are still trying to win the heart of UP. A political romance with Gujarat might have been more productive, considering the electoral scare the Congress gave the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2017.
But the siblings persist in trying to win back their ancestral land (Pandit Motilal Nehru — the Nehru-Gandhi patriarch was of Kashmiri origin, but established an early lucrative law practice in Allahabad UP in 1896).
Sharad Pawar, chief of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) made a biting comment which summoned up the Gandhi siblings one way obsession, “they are like old zamindars counting and talking about land which they have lost ages ago”.
But, Indian politics is like that if you don’t make an impact in what you call your political home, you are not taken seriously by the big players. But, while the Gandhi siblings appear to be in ardent pursuit of UP, it is also a test of how seriously are they committed to polices which in India is 24/7 with no breaks.
Rahul Gandhi, former Congress president, is famous for his long breaks which the BJP repeatedly rubs in to the voters face. Priyanka Gandhi, who is the latest Gandhi trying to win back UP, doesn’t seem serious enough. She is still to become a resident of Lucknow after repeatedly putting it out that she planned to move.
Even a house was picked for Gandhi but, unlike the other contenders, her base is not Lucknow. Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister of UP, has described her politics as “tourism” flying in to UP for what in India is called “eventing”.
If Priyanka Gandhi had drawn up sticks and settled down in Lucknow, she perhaps could have given an impetus to the Congress, which has now been down in the dumps for decades in UP.
But, the politically astute UP, long used to being wooed by all the top leaders of India, still has issues like how to improve the truly pathetic development indices. Rahul Gandhi found it out the hard way when he was ejected from Amethi, the long standing family seat. The results of the UP elections will give Priyanka Gandhi a reality check. But, the relationship is expected to continue as Sonia Gandhi may vacate her Rai Bareilly seat for Priyanka Gandhi.
Fall of Mayawati’s vote citadel?
As I wrote last week, Mayawati four time UP CM, and chief of the Bahujan Samaj Party, has vanished from these elections. Mayawati’s vote citadel has been waning for several elections now with only her Jatav caste voters staying loyal to her. The BJP has ensured that non Jatav Dalits and non Yadav OBCs vote for the party.
However, this time around, an interesting churn is happening. The lower castes who voted for the BJP are upset that Yogi Adityanath has displayed huge empathy for his own Thakur caste and rumbling against Yogi’s “Thakur raj” can be heard in plenty. The Brahmins who were the most loyal BJP voters are also not happy with Yogi’s sole focus on his own.
But, ask the question which other party and the grumbling subsides as they mutter BJP.
This was a section of voters that Priyanka Gandhi could easily have swung if they perceived her as being a serious player in for the long haul. Now this group which is an avid observer of politics has judged that Gandhi needs to work harder. Mayawati had fashioned a winning alliance between Dalits and Brahmins but, this time around, she doesn’t seem to care.
The BJP had an early realisation that all would not be smooth sailing, so it upped welfare schemes and was first off the block with the joint Modi and Yogi show. The biggest question is whether UP has forgotten those bodies floating on the Ganga in the second vicious wave of the pandemic.
That question and what next for India will be answered on March 10.