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Sheela says: Delhi poll result reverberates in UP

By Sheela Bhatt
Last updated on: March 11, 2014 19:25 IST
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In Uttar Pradesh, believe it or not, the BJP will not be helped in the long run if the Congress collapses completely.

The more regional parties are strengthened due to the decimation of the Congress, tougher will be the challenge facing both the grand old party and the BJP.'s incomparable Sheela Bhatt continues her new election column where she reveals the ground realities in the Battle for India, as only she can. Don't miss it!

Love him or despise him, but you have to give some credit to Arvind Kejriwal for making last December's Delhi assembly election unforgettable.

The outstanding performance by Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party decimated the Congress and prevented the Bharatiya Janata Party from forming the government.

The Delhi assembly has 70 seats: The final tally after the election: BJP, 31; AAP, 28; Congress, 8; Janata Dal-United, 1; Shiromani Akali Dal, 1; Independent, 1.

The impact of that victory continues to reverberate in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.

Every BJP leader, from senior leader Arun Jaitley to Amit Shah who is in charge of the BJP's game-plan in Uttar Pradesh for the Lok Sabha election, has been staring at these figures since December 8, the day the assembly results were declared.

After seeing the tally, a BJP leader told, "More than Kejriwal's success, it was the Congress's total collapse that shocked us."

While making an early assessment of the trends in Uttar Pradesh politics this season, some inter-connected issues need to be considered.

The BJP's game-plan in UP, the size of the Congress defeat in the state, Kejriwal's ruthless agenda behind targeting Gujarat's model of development, and how all these issues impact the final tally in UP's 80 Lok Sabha seats are worth our attention.

Congress's level of defeat: Bad or worse?

It is generally believed the Congress will receive a drubbing in the Lok Sabha election.

Going by the preliminary reports coming in from all over India, the only surprise would be if the Congress gets around 150 seats.

The challenge for the Congress is to remain relevant by getting at least 110, 115 seats.

This perception has strengthened due to the feelers sent by UP-based Congress leaders to the party high command saying, 'The BJP is getting anything above 35 seats.'

The Congress's sure shot seats as of today (March 2014) are only four to five seats, that include Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi's constituency Amethi and Congress President Sonia Gandhi's constituency Rae Bareli.

The BJP sales pitch

In the battle to win Uttar Pradesh, the BJP gameplan is quite complex.

One leader working behind the scenes for the BJP explained to how the BJP is moving ahead to fight the war against the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party.

First and foremost, it depends on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's disciplined cadre, the Sadhu Samaj and sundry Hindutva-related issues that spring up here, there and everywhere on UP's political chessboard.

The Muzaffarnagar riots, its fallout and the recent case of sedition against Kashmiri students in Meerut who cheered for the Pakistan cricket team are such cases.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, in his political rallies, may only talk about development and bashing his political opponents, but his identification with Hindutva causes has been solidified, irrespective of whether he speaks about it from a political platform.

In UP's mindset, Modi's pro-Hindutva image, whether he tries to hide it, avoid it, or sell it directly, remains entrenched.

Modi and his identification with the modern-day idea of development has also been pushed by the BJP in the state, especially among the youth. It is personified as the Gujarat model which has caught the fancy of many urban voters.

Also, as an antidote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's soft image and Rahul Gandhi's confused image, Modi is selling his image as a decisive leader.

However, of the three issues (the saffron tinge, the Gujarat model, and Modi's image as a strong leader), Kejriwal and other opponents can successfully target the Gujarat model.

Kejriwal knows that in any developing society there will be people living on the margins, and their stories will have political use.

So, when Kejriwal exposes the weaknesses behind Modi's much-hyped Gujarat model, he is not lying.

In today's edition of The Times of India, a story illustrated by statistical charts shows how poorly the education and health sectors in Gujarat have fared.

A former Gujarat minister told in Modi's defence that, "No claim of development means that people will have gold-plated roofs over their houses. The Gujarat model means access to water, education, doctors, good roads and electricity supply. We definitely claim that Gujarat's villages are livable. In this country, everything needs to be talked along with reference and context. In comparison to what is happening outside, in Gujarat, we claim to have a better development report card."

However, Kejriwal has been successful in hitting on a correct political strategy.

Currently, with reference to UP politics, one of the shrewd strategies to deflate the Modi balloon is to show that the Gujarat model is more hype and less substance.

Kejriwal's strategy during his Gujarat tour was an intelligent one.

There, while exposing the defects and lies of the Gujarat model, the AAP leader was actually trying hard to gain some ground in UP.

By the way, in Gujarat, whatever little electoral success that will come AAP's way will come at the expense of the state Congress.

BJP voters are unlikely to switch their support from Modi when they know that he is trying to become the prime minister of India.

Delhi assembly polls and UP

Coming back to the pattern that emerged from the Delhi assembly election, the BJP's Amit Shah and other political strategists in UP are trying to understand the level of rejection the Congress will face and the level of support it will retain.

The BJP is trying to figure out the impact on its calculations if Delhi's voting trend are repeated in UP.

There are anti-Modi voters, staunch secular voters, anti-BJP voters and loyal Congress voters who will never vote for the BJP in UP, even when the Congress is not their preferred choice.

If the Congress collapses completely in UP, then these voters will consolidate behind non-Congress and non-BJP parties, as happened in New Delhi.

But what will be the trajectory of these anti-BJP voters?

In Delhi, because of the collapse of the Congress, Kerjiwal rose from nowhere and acquired a halo.

But what will happen in UP?

In Uttar Pradesh, believe it or not, the BJP will not be helped in the long run if the Congress collapses completely.

The more regional parties are strengthened due to the decimation of the Congress, tougher will be the challenge facing the grand old party and the BJP.

In the short run, in this election, the BJP will, of course, target the Congress at the national level. But in UP, a Congress defeat similar to the one suffered by the party in Delhi will lead to an unpredictable final tally, which will be difficult to predict or tame in time.

It will be like the wild card played by an opponent in a game where you play with confidence, and even spring your biggest card, and yet you may not win.

The spectre of the Delhi assembly election has taught a hard lesson to Indian politicians.

Image: AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, who benefited from the Congress's collapse in the New Delhi assembly election. Who will benefit from the Congress's collapse in UP?

Yesterday, Sheela Said: Narendra Modi wants Varanasi, and he will get it!

Will the Congress meet its Waterloo in UP in the Lok Sabha election? Vote below!

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