A short visit to Nehru Bhawan in Lucknow this week turned out to be an eye-opener of sorts. Party workers and local leaders seemed upbeat, in contrast to the dirges one heard on TV channels. The party, they felt, was on the cusp of a revival in the state. Tall talks or not, only time will tell. But there was no mistaking the confidence and the energy at the Congress headquarters.
“Mark my word. The Congress is on a revival path. In 2004 and 2009 Congress had done reasonably well in UP and in 2019 we are going to do better…,” was the refrain. When asked to spell out the basis of their confidence, they said that people of the state had turned against BJP and realised that it would be the Congress which could pose a challenge to the ruling regime.
“At the national level, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party will have to bank upon the Congress to form the Government. People of Uttar Pradesh realise this, and we believe they would rather vote for a national party in the parliamentary election,” explained one of the party’s national spokespersons Akhilesh Pratap Singh.
Singh and party workers conceded that much would depend on the campaign that the party will be able to manage. “We need to campaign aggressively and build the momentum if we have to regain the trust of the people,” admitted Singh. But both he and the party workers seemed to think that under the leadership of Congress President Rahul Gandhi, they would be able to win the battle of perception.
The Congress president is likely to address 12 rallies in the state starting from the first week of February. The first rally is likely to be held in Lucknow. It will be followed by rallies in Varanasi, (Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency), Gorakhpur (Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s native city), Meerut, Aligarh, Bareilly, Kanpur, Allahabad, and Jhansi
There is a clear sense of relief at the party having been left out of the SP-BSP coalition. A section of Congress workers were always against having any truck with any of these regional parties, arguing that alliances hindered the growth of the party in the state.
“People have seen Rahul Gandhi campaign against the Union Government and the Prime Minister relentlessly across the country. Neither Mayawati nor Akhilesh have been at the forefront of the campaign. The Congress President has succeeded in convincing people that the `Chowkidar is indeed chor,’ said a party worker animatedly. The ‘leaders’ approvingly nodded their head.
“In Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, Rahul ji would just say Chowkidar, and people would chant “chor hai”. This is the connect he has developed with the masses. The same will be replicated in Uttar Pradesh,” said Amarnath Agarwal, a Congress veteran.
The Congress president is likely to address 12 rallies in the state starting from the first week of February. The first rally is likely to be held in Lucknow. It will be followed by rallies in Varanasi, (Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency), Gorakhpur (Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s native city), Meerut, Aligarh, Bareilly, Kanpur, Allahabad, and Jhansi.
“Party workers have already started making preparations on their own. This is the level of excitement among the workers,” he claimed.
A campaign centred around the Congress President and the selection of candidates, seemed to be the consensus in the party office, would determine the outcome.
“People know that voting for BSP-SP alliance will be wasting their vote because they cannot form the government on their own. So, instead of alliance why not vote for the Congress, “ is what people are talking about, claimed Virendra Madan. The minority community and a large section of the upper castes in the state, he claimed, would support Congress if it puts up a credible campaign.
“Rahul ji recently said in an interview that SP-BSP have underestimated Congress in UP. He is right because after electoral victories in MP, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan we are on the upsurge and with this euphoria we are bound to create history in UP,” he added excitedly.