Is Akhilesh Yadav the real force behind the Congress’ Priyanka move?

The appointment of Priyanka Gandhi as the Congress General Secretary responsible for UP-East, certainly is a cause of celebration for dejected and defeated workers of Congress as well its many strategists who double up as full-time neutral Journalists predicting a range of catastrophes from army coup to advent of fascism and writing columns on how to defeat the BJP. But the man having the biggest smile on his face today is Akhilesh Yadav, the Samajwadi Party dynast, once called Aurangzeb by a journalist for launching a power struggle battle with his own ailing father, Mulayam Singh Yadav.

That Rahul and Akhilesh are fond of each other and will never harm each other politically is no secret. Even as Mayawati and Akhilesh were announcing their pact for 2019, this bonhomie was quite evident when the SP scion refused to join Mayawati in attacking Congress. During the press conference , when asked who the PM will be post 2019 general elections, Akhilesh cleverly shied away from taking any names, but emphasised that he will be happy if someone from UP becomes the PM. Mayawati, sitting next to him and unable to contain her glee, gave a big smile, assuming he was referring to her, but little did she realize that Akhilesh’s response was actually a pointer to the fact that the two heroes of that 2017 flop movie – UP ke ladke – were upto something.

Post Mayawati’s insistence on keeping the Congress out of any alliance in UP, Rahul and Akhilesh have come up with a sinister plan whereby Congress will help maximise the seat gains for SP by offering no real challenge on seats where SP will contest but will pose a stiff triangular challenge wherever BSP will contest. This will serve the dual purpose  of allowing a possibility for the Congress gain some seats and the same time cutting the BSP to its size by adversely impacting its chances. Giving an official role to Priyanka is a tactical move with an immediate goal to create hurdles for Mayawati while having almost no impact on Akhilesh. There is a strong probability that after 2019 general elections, Priyanka will get back to her passive involvement in the party affairs like she has done earlier too, leaving the political turf for her brother.

Giving an active role to Priyanka is a clever ploy of the Congress to disarm Mayawati  and limit her influence in any post 2019 political arrangement at the same time. This seems to be part of a larger game plan to eclipse the growing profile of Mayawati as well prop up Congress as a party of downtrodden specially Dalits and poor Muslims, relying on Priyanka’s charisma. On the face of it, these machinations appear to be a direct outcome of a close door understanding between Rahul Gandhi and the ever smooth-talking Akhilesh.

Know this, to sweep an election in Uttar Pradesh, each party has to stitch its own unique caste alliance as below:

BJP : Upper Caste polarization with a large chunk of non-Yadav OBCs and not Jatav SCs

SP: Muslim – Yadav consolidation plus the solid backing of non Yadav OBCs specially Kurmis/Koeris and Rajputs (Thakurs) who are most amenable to SP amongst Upper castes.

BSP: Dalit -Muslim consolidation plus a substantial chunk of Upper caste and non-Yadav OBCs. In the Upper castes, its the Brahmins who are most amenable to BSP.

Congress: Dalit – Muslim -Brahmin consolidation plus some poor OBCs.

Now, it is quite likely that a substantial part of the seats that BSP will get under the SP-BSP will fall under the parts of Awadh region, Eastern and North-Eastern UP. These are the areas where BSP has traditionally been very strong due to a high concentration of Dalits and poor Muslims, who tend to not vote strategically unlike their brethren in Western UP and Rohilkhand which is where SP is expected to get  its bulk of seats besides its stronghold of Doab region. Bundelkhand and parts of Awadh will be most likely divided equally.

If this will be true, then Priyanka’s influence area will strongly coincide with that of the BSP. And this is definitely a  bad news for the BSP due to the following reasons:

BSP and Congress compete for almost same caste and community voters in these areas. Although the upper castes in these areas tend to favour a party which is most likely to come to power, in recent times they have strongly identified themselves with Modi and Yogi. There is no strong anecdotal evidence to suggest that they are so unhappy with BJP that they could switch over to either Congress or BSP.

The appeal of a dynast, royalty and an outright elite like Priyanka will be higher among the economically poor and the downtrodden. This is mostly rural Dalit and poor OBCs. If there is any shift of this vote to Congress, it will always be away from BSP.

Muslims, who in any case view Mayawati with suspicion due to her track record of allying with the BJP, will have a very appealing alternative in front of them.

The percentage of SP votes, which could plausibly be transferred to BSP in these areas will take a hit if the winnability of BSP comes under the cloud as SP’s vote bank is neo-elite and will tend to go with the winner for the patronage reasons. In addition, the tacit hinting from SP leadership will make sure that its voter gets the right message.

Lets analyze the situation for SP in contrast. By nominating a lacklustre and poor organizer like Jyotiradita Scindia as the General Secretary for UP West, Rahul has clearly confirmed fighting SP is merely a Noora Kushti. Such a scenario will surely help SP and BJP is bound to suffer some losses where the fight will be bipolar.

The question that logically follows from this clever strategy is what are the gains for the Congress and the SP. These will be as below:

1.If BSP gets a decent number of seats, then it will be very hard to deny her the post of Prime Minister as this will be taken as an insult by whole of Dalit community regardless of BSP voters or not. No Party can risk that.

2. Rise of Mayawati hurts Congress the most since it has already lost most of its upper caste voters to the BJP and the OBC voters are in most states captured by the regional parties. So, Congress will do whatever to stop BSP from growing.

3. In a very probable scenario of NDA is slightly short of majority on its own, the MPs from the BSP will be most vulnerable as many of them buy the tickets and have no ideological commitment. Preventing a large-scale victory of BSP will make the lookout for missing numbers all that difficult.

4. Congress has to grow in the UP and at this moment, it can only grow at the cost of BSP with SP and BJP closely guarding their traditional vote banks.

5. Akhilesh turns out to be the Leader No.1 of Uttar Pradesh and SP the largest party.

So all in all, the recent political developments in UP are working in favour of  Akhilesh Yadav. He seems to be in total control and is proving to be even a better politician than his father.

As for Mayawati, Abraham Lincoln once said  “The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend”. Quite clearly he did not mean the Akhilesh’s way.

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