UP in the Cusp of Change?

UP in the Cusp of Change?

Anser Kidwai

UP looks poised in the cusp of a quintessential transformation whatever be the poll outcome. What we have so far witnessed is a most bitterly fought election campaign, and doubtless a make-or-break conflict between the major contenders in the fray–the ruling SP, the BJP and the BSP. However, it is the SP’s alliance with the Congress that has raised many an eyebrow pepping up the interest of the electoral star-gazers and in the state and indeed across the nation. The seven-phased electoral exercise is drawing to a close.
All the three contenders in the field do not tire of claiming a strong surge in their favor: the BJP’s electoral superstar Narendra Modi has gone to the length of predicting of two-thirds or three-fourth seats coming into its basket chief minister Akhilesh Yadav as also the BSP supremo Mayawati each claim victory in at least 300 seats if not more. Even as the TV channel surveys–restrained as they have to be–make us no wiser. (Their opinion polls will of course burst open with usual bang only at the conclusion of the elections on March 8).
The air is thick with speculation about a radical change awaiting UP. What triggered the hope rather paradoxically was the ordeal of Akhilesh Yadav in the wake of his personal and political turmoil that shook the ruling Samajwadi set-up at the roots: it was both a fratricidal and parricidal struggle involving the top party hierarchy. The fall-out was two-fold: Akhilesh Yadav’s emergence as the SP hero, and his alliance with the hitherto political underdog Congress. The two parties have been in adversarial relationship since at least the 1960s–the era of anti-Congressism.
However, now they have emerged as alliance partners united in secular bonds. In fact, the socialists of the Mulayam Singh school have been in the forefront of the forces opposed to the Nehru policies. The same was the common refrain of the Lohia-Charan Singh ideologues. However, the coming together of the SP and Congress is no less a dramatic political turn-about as it is laden with new political meanings. They have come together as part of a joint avowal to fight the “rising wave of fascism”.
Even so, this new party line-up invariably takes one to Nehru’s call to all the socialists to join the Congress fold in 1963 under the shadow of the defeat of the Congress candidates in three prestigious by-elections that brought in socialist luminaries like Dr Lohia first time into the Lok Sabha. Nehru’s call at the time triggered large-scale influx of socialist leaders into the Congress fold that included Asoka Mehta and Chandra Shekhar, former Prime Minister. If the new alliance can really bring the socialist goals any nearer is not so very relevant at the moment but the very fact of the coming together of the new crop of ‘UP ke Bete’ is significant enough having the potential of emergence of a new centrist-left force in the caste-ridden ambience of UP.
As it is Akhilesh Yadav has successfully carved the image of being UP’s new development avatar, but whether this will pay rich electoral dividends remains to be seen. The alliance with the Congress per se is indeed a shrewd move on the part of Akhilesh Yadav despite the inbuilt risks. The Congress had become a forgotten factor in the state and as such any move that helps it to be in the reckoning is a big morale-booster for it–particularly in the light of the poll outcome in Bihar and West Bengal. In case the SP emerges as the largest single party if not with a clear majority on its own then it can count on the Congress to romp home to power. (Yet, any conjecture at this point will be inopportune and pointless).
Winning or losing apart, the SP-Congress alliance has all the possibility will have all the potential of becoming a game-changer. Akhilesh will still be a gainer if he emerges as an agent of change not merely in the political sense but in the social and attitudinal terms as well.
Akhilesh by challenging Modi can emerge as alternative icon and occupy space on opposition benches to challenge BJP in 2019 when poll for Lok Sabha is held. [IFS]

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