Congress must seize opportunity to bounce back in Uttar Pradesh

If Congress can build up a strong organization and deploy ground root workers across UP, it can surely bounce back. It must capitalise on SP’s problem of plenty and BSP voters trying to find new home

Indian National Congress flag
Indian National Congress flag

Syed Kamran

Samajwadi Party registered its best vote share till date in the recently concluded Assembly polls in UP. Even when it allied with Congress in 2017, the combined vote share of the alliance remained well below the 30 per cent mark. This time, however, Samajwadi Party alone polled 32.06 per cent votes and the alliance led by it polled 36.32 per cent vote share.

Even after such a significant surge, the SP-led alliance remained 7.5 per cent behind BJP. The primary reason for the same, as the numbers suggest, is that the significant jump in Samajwadi Party’s vote share didn’t come at the cost of the BJP.

The saffron brigade, in fact, managed to further improve its already formidable vote share by polling (along with its allies) 43.82 per cent vote share.

But what was the main reason behind the sudden surge in Samajwadi Party’s vote jump? To have a better understanding of the results, it’s important to look at the seats where the Samajwadi Party-led alliance didn’t do well.

In a city like Kanpur, where Samajwadi Party bagged 3 out of 10 seats, its candidate from the Kidwai Nagar assembly segment could poll just 4.08 per cent votes as the main contest remained between Ajay Kapoor of the Congress and Mahesh Trivedi of the BJP. Kapoor, who won, has represented Govind Nagar assembly seat twice and Kidwai Nagar (formed as a result of a delimitation exercise before 2012 polls) once.

Similarly, in Pharenda (one of the two seats that Congress won) where Samajwadi Party fielded former minister Shankhlal Manjhi, he could poll just 7.78 per cent votes as the Congress candidate Virendra Chaudhary is a popular face on this seat. He stood second for 5 consecutive times (from 2002 to 2017) contesting from Pharenda assembly seat.

The situation remained almost similar at a few other places including Jagdishpur, Kheragarh, Pindra, Mathura, etc. where the Samajwadi Party-led alliance failed to save its deposit.

As the numbers suggest, the election was mainly between the BJP and the second-best positioned party and in most parts of the state, it happened to be the Samajwadi Party.

Another thing that might add an advantage to the Congress over the Samajwadi Party is the state-wide untouchability of the party beyond its Muslim-Yadav vote base. The baggage that Congress has in some other states seems to be diminishing in UP.

If we take example of Bilgram Mallawan, where BJP’s vote share surprisingly dropped by around 2 per cent, the votes moved to the Congress and not the Samajwadi Party.

Similarly, in Kheragarh, a small portion of BJP voters and almost all SP voters shifted towards the Congress.

If the Congress can build up a strong organization, and deploy ground root workers across the state, it can surely bounce back. Its vote share has surely gone down, but that’s purely because the template of these elections were completely different from ones we have witnessed before.

These elections were entirely between the BJP and the second-best positioned party, so voters of other parties switched sides. Had the Congress been the number two party positioned well enough to challenge the BJP in UP, Congress could well have been in a position of strength in the place of the Samajwadi Party.

A lot will depend on how Congress proceeds from now on. For one, it has the opportunity to capitalise on Samajwadi Party’s problem of plenty and BSP’s voters trying to find a new home.

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