Who should wake up and smell the coffee after this triumphant Rahul/Priyanka road show in Lucknow on Monday, 11 February? Is it Prime Minister Narendra Modi? Amit Shah or Yogi Adityanath? Nah, that’s too obvious. Too obvious.
Actually, it should be Mayawati who tied up a formidable alliance with Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party but then baulked at pulling the Congress into a mahagathbandhan, or grand coalition of all three. Her logic, before this Congress show of strength, may have been intelligent:
- With a weak leadership in UP, the Congress could never convince its committed voters to transfer en bloc to her Bahujan Samaj Party.
- Also, unlike the Congress and SP, Mayawati knows that it will be almost impossible to form a stable government in 2019 without her MPs whether in an NDA-led, UPA-led or Federal Front-led coalition. At the very least she could bargain for becoming the deputy prime minister.
But now, after an incipient Congress resurrection in UP, the mantle of “principal Modi vanquisher” has passed on to Akhilesh Yadav, who perhaps understands better than Mayawati that an entirely new political chemistry is possible.
In fact, Akhilesh Yadav should immediately request his bua (aunt) for a Chai Pe Charcha (conversation over tea, made into an iconic political manoeuvre by Modi in 2014) and he should make a PowerPoint Presentation of the following Ten Political Facts.
1. 2014 Was a Black Swan Election
2014 was a black swan election. So we should not ignore the lessons of 2009 when Congress had won 21 seats – ahead of BSP and BJP, but just a whisker behind SP – with a 20 percent vote share.
2. Congress Resurgence in UP
The Congress had recovered 6 percentage points – up from 7 percent in 2014 – even before Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s induction. Every vote-count from the urban elections of 2017 or recent poll surveys shows the Congress vote at over 12 percent in UP.
After Priyanka has taken charge of East Uttar Pradesh, this could conceivably swell right back to the 20 percent logged in 2009. So it’s critical to read the chai patti (tea leaves) of that election all over again.
3. Congress Footprints in Awadh
Even in the decimation of 2014, the Congress got nearly 18 percent of the vote. Besides Raebareli and Amethi, they could be strong in Pratapgarh, Unnao, Barabanki, Faizabad and Kushinagar.
4. Congress Strong in 28 of 80 Seats
These 28 seats are where the Congress either won in 2009 or retained a 10 percent plus vote share in the face of Modi’s tsunami in 2014. In any fair negotiation, these pockets of Congress strength must be acknowledged rather than dismissed rudely.
5. Congress Had Gained Among Kurmis
Between 2007 and 2009, its biggest gains came from Kurmis – up 22 percent. Remember, the Congress can now showcase Bhupesh Baghel, its Kurmi chief minister of Chhattisgarh. These things matter in Indian politics.
6. Congress’ Gain Across Vote Banks Not Insignificant
The Congress had also won over several other voting blocks in 2009. Upper castes (up 19 percent), Brahmins (up 13 percent) and 11 percent each among Muslims, non-Jatav SCs and Jats. Realistically, some of these gains could revert under a strengthening Rahul/Priyanka dispensation.
7. SP+BSP+Congress an Ideal Alliance for Muslims
Muslim voters will rejoice at an SP+BSP+Congress coalition; that 20 percent block alone could change the game. And once you add Dalits, Yadavs, Kurmis, upper castes, you’re staring at a possible landslide.
8. Flexibility of Women and Young Voters
Women and young voters are very elastic. All evidence shows that these blocks are quite flexible about experimenting with new political formations, as opposed to older male supporters. Already, women’s turnout is higher than male voters in Uttar Pradesh.
See what a four-face-poster with you/Priyanka/Rahul/I, could do!
9. SP+BSP+Congress Can Lead to BJP’s Annihilation
India Today and C-Voter polls predict the BJP’s annihilation. Both are showing a 50 percent plus vote share for the mahagathbandhan in UP, with the BJP trailing 10-15 percentage points behind.
The India Today poll actually predicts a scintillating 75-to-5 tally in our favour!
10. An MP in Hand is Better Than Two in the Bush
Finally, bua, if the Congress fights separately both of us could win about 22-25 seats apiece.
But if we give the Congress a respectable 22-odd seats to fight on, we will be assured of 30 seats each!
And even before Mayawati raises her pet doubt about transfer of votes, Akhilesh Yadav should quickly convince her that voters always follow strong and winning leaders, like her.
And now that the Congress too has got Rahul and Priyanka, they will be able to tell their supporters ‘Please vote for our partners because that’s the same as voting for us.’
And this time, their supporters shall believe them. So, what will be Mayawati’s response? It’s a billion-vote question.