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And now on to UP!

By Rajeev Sharma
May 19, 2016 14:12 IST
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A section within the RSS feels Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani should be projected as the BJP's CM candidate in UP, says Rajeev Sharma.

A poster clamouring for Priyanka Gandhi's entry into politics, issued when her mother Sonia Gandhi was unwell.The biggest message from the results of five assembly elections in the national perspective is that the BJP is back with its winning ways with its unprecedented victory in Assam while the Congress has suffered a major setback which will inevitably put a question mark on Rahul Gandhi's leadership.

The Congress party's cup of woes has overflown in these elections as it not only lost the states of Kerala and Assam where it was in power, but its alliances in Tamil Nadu (with the DMK) and in West Bengal (with the Left parties) too have come a cropper.

Puducherry has emerged as a small consolation for the Congress where it is slated to come to power, but the Congress victory is far from being decisive as the NR Congress has engaged the Congress in a neck-and-neck race.

The results show that the Congress continues to be in the doldrums two years after it was decimated by the Narendra Modi-led BJP in the general election. The message is clear: Rahul Gandhi has proven to be a dud, a non-starter, a square peg in a round hole.

This will inevitably reignite the 'Bring Priyanka' campaign within the Congress.

The results should compel Congress President Sonia Gandhi to rework her strategies in the crucial assembly election in Uttar Pradesh which are just about nine months away.

Sonia has to decide quickly if she will finally bring her daughter Priyanka in the UP poll arena as election strategist Prashant Kishor has suggested.

The BJP's move of projecting Union Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal as its chief ministerial candidate in Assam against the Congress party's three-time Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has worked wonders and enabled it to form a government on its own steam in the entire north-east for the first time.

Another BJP strategy of polarising Hindu voters in Assam where the Muslim population is as high as 34 per cent has also paid off.

This should embolden the BJP to wield a similar twin-pronged strategy in UP -- by projecting a chief ministerial candidate and polarising Hindu voters. The latter should not be difficult as the party has done it successfully in the 2014 general election when it won 71 out of UP's 80 Lok Sabha seats on its own strength.

Projecting a CM candidate in UP will be a tough call for the BJP. The party had faced a similar dilemma in Bihar and eventually contested the assembly election without declaring its chief ministerial candidate.

A section within the RSS is of the view that Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani be projected as the BJP's CM candidate in UP.

Irani had contested the Lok Sabha election against Rahul Gandhi from the Amethi Lok Sabha constituency two years ago and though she lost she had put up a good fight and had given Rahul jitters.

The BJP's impressive victory in Assam will improve the party's strength in the Rajya Sabha where it has always been in a minority.

The defiance of anti-incumbency sentiments in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu where incumbent Chief Ministers Mamata Banerjee and J Jayalalithaa respectively have won on their own defeating pre-poll coalitions where the Congress was a junior partner has added insult to injury for the Congress.

The election results in these two states show that the Congress continues to be a non performing asset as far as electoral allies are concerned.

The election results and the stunning BJP victory in Assam show that the BJP has re-found its mojo after its humiliating defeat in Bihar six months ago.

Prime Minister Modi and the BJP complete two years in power next week in style. The BJP has finally shattered the perception that its political existence is only among Hindi-speaking people.

Rajeev Sharma, an independent journalist and strategic columnist, tweets @Kishkindha

IMAGE: A poster clamouring for Priyanka Gandhi's entry into politics, issued when her mother Sonia Gandhi was unwell.

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