Cong seniors ready to fight UP polls, prospects grim

Cong seniors ready to fight UP polls, prospects grim

By MOHAMMED ANAS | NEW DELHI | 30 July, 2016
Sheila Dikshit may be fielded from Noida or Ghaziabad, UP districts next to Delhi.

Around 50 senior Congress leaders including Prakash Jaiswal, Begum Noorbano, Pradeep Jain Arya, Chaudhary Vijendra Singh, Rashid Alvi, R.P.N. Singh, Salman Khurshid, Saleem Sherwani, Ratna Singh, Jitin Prasada and Imran Masood have apparently been asked to contest next year’s Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. Many of them are unsure of the constituency to choose and, according to sources, face grim prospects as per “ground reports” collected by the party from some constituencies.

According to a source who claims to have been closely following Congress’ UP incharge Ghulam Nabi Azad, all these leaders have been asked to gear up for polls. “In one of the meetings between Azad and Congress’ poll consultant Prashant Kishor, it was discussed that fielding senior and known leaders will keep the party in news and may bring positive results,” the source said.

The Sunday Guardian asked some of these leaders whether they were going to contest the 2017 elections. Rajkumari Ratna Singh, a former MP from Pratapgarh, categorically denied that she would contest the polls. Rashid Alvi said that he was yet to be officially asked by the UP Congress Committee to contest the polls. But he accepted that he has been working with his team in Moradabad constituency.  People close to him said that it was almost certain that he would contest from Moradabad. Alvi had in the past contested parliamentary polls from neighbouring Amroha.

Pradeep Jain said that he considered himself a soldier of the party and was ready to obey any command of the party high command. “I will contest from anywhere my party wants me to,” he said. Sources said that he might be fielded from one of the constituencies of Meerut district. Jain belongs to the area.

Similarly, Jitin Prasada is said to be certainly contesting from Shajehanpur and Chaudhary Vijender Singh from Aligarh. Congress’ Chief Ministerial candidate Sheila Dikshit, former Delhi CM, last week said in Kanpur that she would not contest the elections as that might disturb her campaign in the state.  But some party sources said that Dikshit may be fielded from Noida or Ghaziabad, Delhi’s nearby districts.

Imran Masood said he would contest from anywhere, but most preferably from Saharanpur. Saharanpur is said to be the strongest pocket for Congress in Western Uttar Pradesh because of Masood’s popular as well as controversial personality.

People close to Begum Noorbano in Rampur hinted that she might contest against SP’s strongman Azam Khan.

But despite such enthusiasm, sources said that as per an internal party assessment of senior leaders based on reports collected from some constituencies, the situation is depressing.

“Like in Farrukhabad from where former External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will be contesting, prospects are not said to be bright. Same is the case in Agra, from where new UPCC chief Raj Babbar is likely to be fielded. Actually, except for Shahjehanpur and Saharanpur, the likely constituencies of Prasada and Masood, respectively, no other seat could be called safe for the Congress leaders,” said a source in the UPCC.

The source added that if all these leaders have to contest the polls, they will have to search for suitable constituencies and would have to start working there now onwards.

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Congress may be on a real revival in UP. They have been out of power for 27 years and people may want to give it a try again -- especially since while running the centre, they passed several pro-poor and pro-farmer legislation (land act, MNREGA, loan-waiver, RTI etc) even though there is a strong perception of corruption (none proven except maybe 2G, of which DMK was the culprit). The main reason why congress never gained traction in UP was because of neglect by the Congress leadership. In fact, Congress party never really cared much about State Elections for the last 2 decades and focused on getting power in centre. But this time around, they seem serious about UP, Gujarat and Punjab (in that order). From the success of the 3 road-shows, it seems that people want to listen to what Congress has to say even if they may not be ready to vote for it yet (but may change their mind). The strategy of congress seems to be to cut into BJP's and BSP's vote base so that neither gets majority (assuming that SP stands limited chance of gaining power) and if Congress gains enough seats (say above 50), then they can be the king-maker and keep BJP out. It is a bold, but practical strategy. There are only 2 poles in Indian politics (right of center represented by BJP) and left-of center represented by Congress and a whole lot of other parties. The left-of-center make up about 70-75% of the electorate, but is deeply splintered among numerous parties, hence BJP wins by default. Congress needs to decimate many of these splinter parties (including AAP, which is likely to self-destruct) so that it can be the main actor in the larger left-of-center pole. Then BJP will have no chance of ever coming to power again

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