Image Credit: www.thehindu.com
As expected, Congress announced Shiela Dixit as CM candidate of the party for UP polls due next year. The clear focus is to woo the Brahmin voter who forms 9% of population. Along with this, party appointed Sanjay Singh as the Chief of the Campaign Committee, belonging to the Rajput caste accounting for 7% of population.
Earlier it had appointed Ghulam Nabi Azad as state in-charge for polls eyeing the Muslim vote as Part I of the strategy (19% of population). Caste is cast in stone in UP and the state did deviate from this in 2014 LS polls backing development ahead of caste. However, caste is expected to again be the dominating factor and all parties are in search of drafting a perfect social combination.
Congress wants to revive its old anchor vote segments Dalits-Upper Castes-Muslims to improve its tally in the state where its fortunes have dwindled after 1989. The decline in UP has also been partly responsible for party’s fall from grace nationally.
After a long time any party has dared to announce a Brahmin CM candidate in Hindi heartland which has been dominated by backward / OBC / Dalit politics. In Nov. 2015 I had tweeted that if Congress wants to revive itself it has to woo upper caste as everybody is wooing the backward caste.
Skeptics argue that this won’t help Congress win the polls. They forget that Congress is not here to win but its goals in UP can be summarized as below:
Does this mean that no alliance with BSP can take place still in the future? I won’t say alliance options closed. But now it will wait for feelers from Mayawati side. As days pass by, BJP will get ahead of BSP in the race, and then Maya can have a rethink. So this move can also be seen as a pressure tactic. This is also the reason Shiela an outsider has been chosen. She can be later convinced to drop out of CM race if party forms an alliance with Maya.
Will this strategy work for Congress?
The results will show whether the strategy will work or not. A section of Brahmins who have voted for BJP in the past are not happy with OBC dominance in party. They did help BSP win in 2007 and party wants to target this set of voters. A 30% vote share from Upper castes and Muslims will lead to a 10% vote share for the party. Anything between 12%-15% will be a good performance and put it in the reckoning to play a role in govt. formation.
Bold strategy capable of causing a disruption. Now this has to be backed by clear focus on winnable 100 odd seats with extensive campaigning by Priyanka. Will party risk putting Priyanka ahead? The success of this strategy will depend a lot on this question. A very interesting election ahead….