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Congress Mukt Bharat Can Wait, Congress Yukt UP May Suit the BJP

If Congress get votes at the expense of the SP and BSP, it will be to the BJP’s advantage, writes Sanjay Pugalia.

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If  Congress get votes at the expense of the SP and BSP, it will be to the BJP’s advantage, writes Sanjay Pugalia.

The slogan of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders in general and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in particular that trended the most is “Congress Mukt Bharat.”

But as the countdown for the crucial assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh begins, BJP leaders would be hoping for a “Congress Yukt UP”. If the Congress manages to get additional votes with the high-decibel campaign it has launched, it
most likely will happen at the expense of the Samajwadi Party (SP) or the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Won’t that suit the BJP?

The BJP conveniently blamed the formidable arithmetic of the Mahagathbandhan for its drubbing in Bihar assembly elections last year. The logic may have its flaws. But the BJP does not relish straight fights with all parties ganging up against the saffron brigade. If the same logic is applied in UP, the Congress, the BSP and the SP fighting elections separately will suit the BJP.

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Triangular Contest

Going by the recent records, the contest in UP is essentially going to be triangular, with the BSP, SP and BJP considered as main players. Now that the Congress has sent its veteran generals like Sheila Dikshit, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Raj Babbar into the electoral ring, the grand old party is expected to capture disproportionate share of mind space. It is already getting a fair share of media space. The party may end up increasing its vote share and make a dent in pockets of other parties’ social bases. It is not inconceivable that the Congress may upset winning combinations in quite a few seats.

It is quite clear that the Congress’ primary agenda in UP is not to stop the BJP from coming to power in the state. If that was the case, it would not have announced the name of Sheila Dikshit as its chief ministerial candidate.

It would have tried for some understanding, if not a full-fledged alliance, with the BSP. If the contest remains triangular and any of the perceived top contenders win, the Congress will be a loser. If the contest is four-cornered and the BJP gets a majority of seats or occupies the number two slot, it will be an uphill task for the Congress to revive its fortunes in UP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

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Skipping Bihar Formula

If the Congress had tried for an alliance with Mayawati in UP, it would have hoped for some help from the BSP in 2019. That would have boosted the Congress’ numbers in the next Lok Sabha. At least that was a theoretical possibility. The Bihar formula in UP would have suited the Congress. But the strategy of going alone with a view to increase vote share and add some seats in the bargain does not make much of a
sense. Not in the larger scheme of things.

We are discussing various scenarios here which can go horribly wrong if the current trend of decisive mandate persists. Given the way things are, if UP decides to choose either main challenger Mayawati or incumbent Akhilesh Yadav, BJP and Congress strategists may be left with nothing but to regret missed opportunities. BJP, however, is
expecting that UP does not go the Bihar way. Given the recent history of fragile inter-community relations, religious polarisation is a distinct possibility in Uttar Pradesh. And it suits the BJP.

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If  Congress get votes at the expense of the SP and BSP, it will be to the BJP’s advantage, writes Sanjay Pugalia.
BSP chief Mayawati at Parliament in New Delhi on 26 July, 2016. (Photo: IANS)
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Mayawati May Play Spoilsport

But the BJP’s calculations may go wrong if Dalits choose to shift en masse towards the BSP. If Mayawati manages a sizeable section of Muslim votes too, the BJP has reasons to worry about. In that case, the BJP may still claim a moral victory if it occupies the principle opposition space in the state.

Let me end with some numbers. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had a strike rate of a whopping 88 per cent in constituencies where it was in straight contest with the Congress. The strike rate dipped to 49 percent in constituencies where strong regional players were in the fray. If this is the case, would the BJP still insist on a
“Congress Mukt UP”? Time now for Mr Modi to revisit his slogan perhaps. At least till UP votes.

Also read:

Is BJP Rebranding Itself by Poaching BSP Leaders Such as Maurya?
In Decline Mode, Congress Struggles With a ‘Crisis of Purpose’

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