Saturday, April 26, 2014

Countering BJP bluster: Congress despondent, SP defiant

Lucknow: The man who has been a Congress worker for 40 years, sitting in the party Lok Sabha candidate Rita Bahuguna Joshi’s office, gives a homely example about electoral fortunes and fluctuations. He said that if there are only 300 people in a neighbourhood, and three “baaraat” (bridegroom processions) take place the same day, the same 300 participate in all the three, with a few more ending up in one of the baaraat. He compares this to the election result where the winner, the baaraat with a larger procession, has only a few more people than the other bridegroom processions.
He hopes Joshi will win, and like a good Congressman he lays emphasis on lineage and experience. Joshi is the daughter of Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and a tall leader in the party at the time. Then he offers a weaker second reason why he thinks that the people ought to support Joshi. She is an experienced leader and can get things done compared to the inexperienced and unresponsive BJP leaders. He says that even if she is not in power, he receives requests and applications, and he rings the bureaucrats and gets the work done for the people. That is the Congress culture, he boasts. The underlying theme is that the Congress is reconciled to defeat and to sit in the opposition. This is the mood and the situation in the Congress camp in central Lucknow.
A Samajwadi Party (SP) functionary sitting in a near-empty party headquarters at Vikramaditya Marg, in the official centre of the city, scoffs at the BJP claim that it will win 58 seats. And he counters it by a wager: BJP will not get more than seats in UP. He bases his argument as much on partisan fervour as logical analysis. He says that even if BJP PM candidate were to win the Varanasi seat, his victory will have no bearing on the neighbouring Bhadohi constituency, he says. The SP sources argue that in UP, all of the 80 constituencies are different from each other, that a victory in one will have no impact on the others. They are countering the BJP argument that Modi contesting from Varanasi will impact 15 of the Avadh constituencies and 29 of eastern UP and nine of western Bihar.
At the other end of the town, in the older neighbourhood on the other side of Gomti, Shamil Shamsi, president of the Hussaini Tigers, a Shia youth organisation, asserts that the 1.5 lakh Shia voters will opt for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate and Hindi film star Javed Jaffri because he is a Shia. SP men disagree and predict that at most Javed Jaffri will get 5000 Shia votes. Asked if Shia intellectuals are favouring BJP, he says it will not be the case. On the issue of favouring a BJP without Modi, he quotes Kalbe Jawad, his uncle and a popular Shia cleric saying that the Muslims would consider a BJP with a secular prime ministerial candidate.
A retired professor from Lucknow University is of the view that if Shias were to go one way and vote for AAP, then the Sunnis, who form the majority Muslim segment in the city, will go the other way and consider either SP or Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
The UP electoral scene is resistant to any kind of profiling and analysis. The common assertion is that UP will decide on its own and they will follow no one’s diktat. The argument is that UP is complex, and that what holds good in western UP does not hold true in the eastern parts of the state. “There is a Hindu-Muslim polarisation in Muzaffarnagar and other parts on the side of the state. Muslims are likely to vote either with SP or BSP, but the Hindus there will vote for the BJP. But this will not be the case in the central, eastern parts. Sectarian divisions will split the Muslim vote this side, and the Hindus too will not all vote for the BJP,” says the professor.

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