And coupled with Mamata’s autocratic ways, her intolerance for criticism and huge allegations of corruption on senior leaders of her party, the rational minds would certainly like to experiment with the Left Front block again in absence of any other political alternative – to see if the Left Front has learnt some lessons.
Mamata would sail smoothly this time because of her focus on rural voters but she needs to keep in mind that their patience, too, runs out, and it is just a matter of time – if West Bengal gets any political alternative like AAP.
While West Bengal still has the organized cadre and popular leaders from the Left Front, Congress in Uttar Pradesh cannot claim anything. It has no cadre, no organizational structure and no leaders. Yes, Sonia Gandhi is elected to the Parliament from Raebareli and Rahul Gandhi from Amethi, but that is just symbolic. Sonia and Rahul were never Uttar Pradesh leaders and they have no political currency to affect the electoral mindset for any significant change.
But if the Congress candidates can still emerge as the underdogs, it is because of the frustration creeping in the minds of Uttar Pradesh voters.
The politics in Uttar Pradesh has just two poles for over two decades now – SP and BSP. BJP has failed to capitalize on the biggest chance it had to recover in Uttar Pradesh with the impressive performance in 2014 general elections. The party should have realized by now that raking up the Ram Temple issue in every electoral battle in Uttar Pradesh has become a futile exercise. It doesn’t pull votes anymore. Other parties like JD(U), RJD, AD, AIMIM, AAP, CPI(M), CPI and everyone else are there just to populate the numbers.
And by all measures, from all projections and reports, and by the electorate’s response of changing the government every next time, even if the state’s politics is riddled with caste and community polarizations, we can say both, the SP and the BSP governments, leave a huge trail of anti-incumbency during their respective terms.
The Uttar Pradesh voters need a government of efficient governance which proves effective not only on ensuring strict law and order measures but also on bringing and distributing development to the India’s most populous state with the maximum number of the Lok Sabha seats, i.e., 80.
Every government in the state has failed on it. Power shortage is a decades old issue. Deteriorating law and order situation makes for news headlines. Many politicians have coupled up as criminals and vice versa. Many are in jail and many are facing serious court cases. And all these problems have persisted for years.
And that frustrates voters – at least the rationally thinking ones – and Congress has chance here. The party may not pull a miracle but if it emerges as the third largest party with some significant numerical strength in the next Uttar Pradesh state assembly, it would surprise everyone.
Yes, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are not Uttar Pradesh leaders but they are symbolically potent enough to lead some of the rational thinking voters to their camps in the upcoming assembly polls – to experiment with the alternatives available in absence of any other political alternative available in the state – and the factors that would additionally help the party – are – the sympathy undercurrent that might be there after its two elected state governments were sabotaged – in Arunchal Pradesh and Uttarakhand – in two months, anti-incumbency against the BJP government in the centre and the status of the Congress party as the only other national political party – in spite of its reduced Lok Sabha count of 44 in a house of 543 elected members.
In Punjab, AAP is not an underdog but a major player now and the battle is out in the open.
In Assam, we know the known underdog, Badruddin Ajmal led AIUDF. Badruddin Ajmal is a perfume businessman worth Rs. 2000 crore and is now a successful politician it seems. Assam has over 34% Muslim population and some 40 of the 126 assembly constituencies are minority concentration ones, i.e., where consolidations of Muslim votes can tilt the results.
Since its inaugural in 2005, AIUDF has made rapid strides in Assam politics. It won 10 seats in 2006 assembly polls that rose to 18 in 2011 and it led in 24 assembly segments in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. It tied with Congress in winning three Lok Sabha seats in 2014, raising its tally from one in 2009. The remarkable aspect is its increase in vote share – from scratch in 2005 to 15% in 2014 Lok Sabha polls. In 2011 assembly polls, the party had cornered 12.6% votes.
AIUDF is contesting these elections alone – as Ajmal said no acceptable solution on alliance with other parties could be reached. And with the second largest shares of Muslim voters in any Indian state, he is hoping to play kingmaker, expecting to win around 40 seats. Analysts question about his prospects as Assamese Muslims in Upper Assam oppose him and as Upper Assam has the maximum number of constituencies.
The elections have begun. Let’s see if Ajmal can travel the distance from Lower Assam and Barak Valley, his traditional stronghold, to other parts of the state. And to widen his canvas, he has chosen his party candidates accordingly, including other communities than Muslims.