The Congress Story In UP: Difficult To Spot A Point Of Inspiration 

Atul Chandra

Nov 09, 2016, 06:01 PM | Updated 06:01 PM IST

Congress in Uttar Pradesh 
Congress in Uttar Pradesh 
  • In Uttar Pradesh, the past, present and future—all look bleak for the Congress. 
  • Rahul Gandhi’s “khaat pe charcha” round had just got over and the Congress leaders thought it was an occasion to interact with the media in Lucknow. A dinner was recently hosted by the party’s Uttar Pradesh in-charge Ghulam Nabi Azad who, as it turned out, was not forthcoming on how the campaign’s momentum was to be maintained and if the party was open to the idea of a pre-poll alliance.

    Present on the occasion were Sheila Dikshit, the party’s chief ministerial candidate, who does not have even an outside chance of becoming one; state unit president Raj Babbar; Rajya Sabha members Pramod Tiwari and Sanjay Sinh; besides the state legislators and a host of other functionaries.

    With the party’s poll prospects a foregone conclusion, they were a demoralized lot but put up a bold front. One legislator was candid: “We stand some chance if there’s an alliance with Samajwadi Party, otherwise the prospects are bleak.”

    A Congress-Samajwadi Party alliance could be in the making. The news going around is that Congress is ready to extend support to Akhilesh Yadav for the CM’s post but expects the SP to back Rahul Gandhi in 2019.

    Azad was asked if he wasn’t wary of the wily Mulayam, the slippery customer that he was. He was reminded of how the SP chief was prone to going back on his assurances. Azad responded cryptically: “There are no permanent friends or foes in politics.” Mulayam and Akhilesh may have spelt out their terms to Kishore, whose relation with Congress is itself in doubt, but for the media they are keeping the party on tenterhooks.

    With Rahul Gandhi not demonstrating any leadership acumen and proving to be a the subject of jokes, party men want Priyanka to campaign extensively in the state. The Congress leadership, however, seems cagey about the idea as Priyanka could easily overshadow her brother. She is much better at establishing rapport with the people than the Congress vice-president.

    Whether Priyanka joins the poll battle or not, her party is desperately looking for an alliance. By stitching a pre-poll alliance with the SP, the Congress would stand an outside chance of being part of a coalition government in the state. Nothing could be more important for the grand old party than finding a straw to latch on to.

    After all, the party has been in the political wilderness in the state for a good 27 years. That’s long enough to cause its political obliteration and, therefore, a valid reason to join hands with the SP.

    The last time the Congress was in power---1988-89--- ND Tiwari was the chief minister. His government lasted a little over one year, 528 days to be precise. Although he was the state’s chief minister twice before, his earlier tenures were even shorter. Strangely, he lasted his full term as the chief minister of Uttarakhand.

    An economist, Tiwari did attract investments in the state but it was agriculture which spurred growth. He is credited with envisioning the North Okhla Industrial Development Authority (NOIDA) and later Greater NOIDA. Much of his legacy, however, now lies in tatters after his carnal sins ruined his reputation.

    He was also the one to start criminalization of polity by inducting in Uttar Pradesh by inducting Gorakhpur-based mafia, into politics.

    Other than ND Tiwari, the Congress does not have much to talk about unless one goes further back into history when Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna, whose daughter Rita Bahuguna Joshi recently resigned from the party, had rebelled against Indira Gandhi. In between there were Ram Naresh Yadav, Banarsi Das, VP Singh and Sripati Misra, of whom only VP Singh left his mark after a drive against dacoits. None of them survived a full term in office.

    The other Congress CM who deserves mention is Vir Bahadur Singh, who was at the helm from September 24, 1985 to June 24, 1988. He was instrumental in the opening of the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmbhoomi locks. That marked the beginning of the Congress’s decimation leading the voters to ostracise it politically.

    Hashimpura and Maliana massacres also happened under his rule.

    The Congress subsequently came to be dubbed anti-Muslim. The tagline continues to haunt the party today when it wants to ride on SP’s back to improve its political fortunes in Uttar Pradesh.

    A mahagatbandhan (grand alliance) could be the answer.

    Atul Chandra is former Resident Editor, The Times of India, Lucknow. He has written extensively on politics in Uttar Pradesh.

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