With three phases of UP Assembly polls concluded, political analysts are trying hard to figure out the upcoming results. Who will win? What will be the margins? And how polarisation is playing a role in the election process.
But not many are discussing the prospects of the Congress. The party used to command a good presence in Uttar Pradesh a few decades ago. But its fortunes in the most populous state of the country have dwindled over the years, so much so that it seems in a position to score a perfect zero.
Congress losing its base in Uttar Pradesh
In the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, the INC surprised everyone by winning just seven seats.
Out of the seven seats, just two came from Rae Bareli, which used to be a party bastion at the time. And it also faced a complete washout in Amethi, which used to serve another party bastion a few years ago.
By the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, it became clear that the party has lost its base in Uttar Pradesh completely. Rahul Gandhi failed to retain his Amethi Lok Sabha constituency, and the party won only one seat in the state as Sonia Gandhi retained the Rae Bareli constituency.
After 2019, things have only gone from bad to worse for the grand old party. Aditi Singh, one of two Congress MLAs from Rae Bareli, joined the BJP last year. This was a huge blow for the INC as Singh was considered close to the Nehru-Gandhi family.
And then, Union Minister Smriti Irani has been campaigning to dethrone the INC in Rae Bareli too. She had earlier defeated Rahul Gandhi in the Amethi Lok Sabha seat. All these factors suggest that INC is contesting with a really weak political base in UP.
Polarisation to work against INC
The electoral pattern in multi-cornered states has been such that the minority votes get divided.
It happened in the case of the 2017 UP Assembly polls too. But this time, the minority votes could get consolidated.
IANS quoted a senior cleric of Darul Uloom Deoband as saying, “Defeating the BJP is a major factor though other factors also matter such as the candidate, the party, village level dynamics and local rivalries.”
The cleric reportedly added that “had all Muslims voted for one strong party, the BJP would not have come to power in 2017”.
Now, if there is a consolidation of minority votes, it would most probably favour the SP because it seems better placed than other opposition parties.
The rest of the votes could go to BSP and some to BJP if Shia voters choose to back it. In constituencies where BJP doesn’t seem particularly strong, some voters could even go for Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM. This means that Congress could lose out completely on minority voters.
Caste equations marginalise INC
And finally, caste equations do prop up in UP Assembly elections.
Again, the caste equations are becoming pretty clear. Be it OBCs, Dalits or Swarn communities, no one seems to be voting for the INC.
There was a time when Swarn communities used to vote for the INC. But these votes are going to the BJP now.
On the other hand, there is a clear division of the OBC votes too. Yadav votes are most likely to go with SP and non-Yadav OBC votes are again likely to go in BJP’S favour.
BSP has a good base amongst Jatav Dalits, whereas the BJP is popular amongst non-Jatav Dalits.
So, in the end, you are left at a juncture where the Congress doesn’t seem to be commanding much support in any section of UP’s electorate. And this puts it at a high chance of scoring a perfect zero.
It is surprising how INC’s fortunes have gone downhill in UP. The state used to be a bastion for Congress at one time. Many of the Prime Ministers and Home Ministers used to come from Uttar Pradesh. At times, half of the cabinet berths were filled with lawmakers from the most populous state in the country. But now the party seems to be struggling to show any presence in the state.