With Priyanka Gandhi’s Elevation, Will Congress Triumph in UP?
Video Editor: Mohd Irshad Alam and Vivek Gupta
As Congress hopes to bounce back with renewed energy and a game plan for Uttar Pradesh, will the stars of the grand old party align to strengthen its position in the UP? Congress workers, who were earlier pushed to the margins in UP politics are now hopeful with Priyanka's elevation. With this, the Congress aims to have PM Modi and the BJP stuck in knots.
The excitement metre is so high that they (Congress workers) are now demanding to pit Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi against PM Modi in Benaras. But if Priyanka and Rahul contest from Benaras, what will be the election scenario?
For now, there are no confirmed talks or rumours from the party whether Rahul and Priyanka will contest from Benaras. However, in politics there are endless possibilities.
From Congressi to Bhaajpai
Congress also ruled Benaras from 1952 to 1982. In other words, one can say that it was Kamlapati Tripathi’s rule in Benaras for three decades. However in 1977, young turk Chandra Shekhar had taken this seat from Congress. Before this instance, the seat once also went to the communists in 1967. In 1980s, Congress was dethroned in Benaras as the BJP turned the wheel by driving the Ram Mandir campaign.
The people of Benaras, often called as Congressi, were rechristened to become Bhaajpai. Although the BJP has been ruling Benaras in recent times, for almost three decades, it doesn't lessen Congress’ chances in Benaras. If Rahul and Priyanka contest from Benaras, then the fight will be a strong one.
In 2014, PM Narendra Modi had won 5,81,022 votes from Benaras, while Arvind Kejriwal of AAP had won 2,09,238 votes. That year, Congress candidate Ajay Rai got only 75,614 votes.
With SP-BSP deciding to not contest from Amethi and Raebareli against Congress, if these parties come together along with Rahul in Benaras, the political equation will surely change.
Caste Equations in Benaras
There are 3.25 lakh Baniya voters in Benaras. Although they are considered to be the core voters of BJP they are upset with the note ban and GST.
Brahmin voters stand at 2.50 lakh. They are also upset with the SC-ST Act and the issue of Ram Mandir.
We should not forget that these very people were once Congress' core voters. Muslims form the next largest vote bank with 3 lakh voters. This group, as believed, votes for the one that contests against the BJP. Their voting percentage is considered very high. And this could hugely impact the election.
What Numbers Show
In 2009, Murli Manohar Joshi was the BJP candidate from Benaras. He was pitted against BSP's Mukhtar Ansari who was known to be a 'mafia don'. It is said that Joshi managed to win with a margin of only 17,000 votes that, too, after allegedly effecting Hindu-Muslim polarisation in Benaras.
The numbers from 2004 elections reflect that there is much that the Congress can look forward to. In the era that was made famous by the BJP for its 'India Shining' slogan the political climate in Benaras completely changed with just one roadshow of Rahul Gandhi.
In 2004, three-time MP from BJP, Shankar Prasad Jaiswal was defeated by Dr Rajesh Mishra of Congress in Benaras. Then, Brahmins and Muslims had voted for Congress.
Now if there is a question about partnerships, and if the caste equations also change, then Rahul and Priyanka can pose strong competition for PM Modi.