Monday, January 23, 2012

[ZESTCaste] Awaiting Rahul’s magic wand

Awaiting Rahul's magic wand
Nilofar Suhrawardy (India)

24 January 2012
Rahul Gandhi, campaigning hard for Congress party's victory in Uttar
Pradesh (UP) assembly elections, is not new to politics.

He has succeeded in capturing substantial attention of media with his
now being projected as a 'kingmaker' in UP politics. If Rahul's
political strategies fail to ensure a major victory for Congress,
according to political speculations, it would not be possible for any
party to form the next state government without support of the

Rahul is optimistic that his strategies will succeed in turning the
Dalit (lower Hindu caste) vote-bank, Mayawati's main political plank,
in favour of Congress. Mayawati, a leader of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)
is the sitting UP Chief Minister. Rahul has earned substantial media
coverage by eating at Dalits' residence and interacting with them. But
the real question is, to what degree can this media-hype be expected
to turn into votes in support of Congress? The Dalit-card of Congress
is weakened by the fact that Congress has not projected any Dalit as
its nominee for the position of the next UP chief minister. Prospects
of Mayawati (herself a Dalit) of being ousted from power in UP remain
dim till a substantial dent is created in this vote-bank.

With Muslims viewed as the decisive-vote in at least 100 seats of
403-member UP assembly, Rahul has not wasted efforts in reaching out
to them. If Rahul succeeds in turning UP votes in favour of Congress,
this will facilitate his stepping onto the central stage as Congress
nominee for the prime ministerial position.

Considering that Congress won only 22 seats in 2007 and 25 in 2003 UP
assembly polls, only a magic-wand can help Rahul turn the political
tide in his party's favour. In the 2007 elections, Mayawati's party
bagged 206 seats.

Rahul's political fate in UP is dependent on whether he succeeds in
defying prospects of Mayawati returning to power. Though some hype has
been created about other rivals, particularly Samajwadi Party and
Bharatiya Janata Party faring better than earlier, this may not prove
to be of much help to Congress. Both the parties are suffering from
internal dissent and conflict because of which, chances of their
winning more seats than they did in 2007 are bleak. Ever since former
prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has retired from politics, BJP has
suffered setbacks in UP. The Congress may gain marginally if
supporters of these two parties choose to vote in its favour.

Though Rahul has campaigned actively in UP, sparing no chance in
targeting Mayawati on grounds of corruption and ill-governance, he has
yet to cover the entire state. Secondly, the Congress has taken a lot
of time in finalising its list of candidates for UP polls. There is a
view that perhaps Congress has deliberately indulged in this strategy.
If Congress fares well, Rahul can easily take the credit for his being
command in UP. If Congress fails, the blame may be given to the
weakness of the candidates. Now, it is to be watched whether Rahul's
strategy will work or not.
Nilofar Suhrawardy is a India-based writer


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