Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, India
Feb 11, 2019, 10.33 AM
One wonders why Jyotiraditya Scindia has been made the Congress party’s general secretary in-charge for western Uttar Pradesh for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. He doesn’t bring any special understanding of the region to the table, nor is he a charismatic figure there.
Also, although technically on a footing equal with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who too has been appointed general secretary but in charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh, Scindia cannot hope to match her profile or stature within the party even with the new assignment. One can, therefore, only speculate on the reasons.
Here’s speculation number one. The appointment is Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s way of keeping him away from the politics of Madhya Pradesh, where Kamal Nath is ensconced as chief minister. Scindia had been a formidable candidate to take over the reins of the government after the Congress displaced a Bharatiya Janata Party regime in the state recently.
He was both popular and close to Rahul Gandhi. When the Congress high command decided in Kamal Nath’s favour, it reportedly offered Scindia the deputy chief minister’s post, which was declined. Since then, the party felt it is prudent to avoid situations of direct conflict between Scindia and Kamal Nath, and thus, shifted the young leader out.
Speculation number two: The appointment is a way to cut Scindia down to size. His refusal to accept the deputy’s position was seen as a snub to the high command and to the Kamal Nath-Digvijaya Singh lobby. He was, thus, given charge of a region where the Congress stands little chance of doing well and can be made a scapegoat after the Congress fails in the region. Only days prior to his appointment, Scindia had a long meeting with senior BJP leader and former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan with whom he is said to share a good rapport. That may have rankled the high command too.
And speculation number three is that Scindia will be used a foil in the post-result scenario for comparison with Priyanka’s performance in eastern Uttar Pradesh, where the Congress has a fighting chance to win a fistful of seats — at least two to four. This may be nothing to talk about, but it’s still better than zero, which is what many analysts believe the Congress will get in the western parts of the state.
Admittedly, all this is speculation. What is not speculation but a fact is that the Congress is weak and anaemic in western Uttar Pradesh. It could not do well even in the 2017 Assembly elections when most analysts had predicted trouble for the BJP there for a variety of factors. The Jats, comprising some 17 per cent of the population, are a dominant factor.
They were supposedly angry with the BJP for having made a non-Jat the chief minister of neighbouring Haryana. Besides, they were said to have been a spanner in the works of the BJP’s larger Hindu consolidation drive. The Muslims, another important segment in the region, were upset with the BJP too. Ajit Singh’s party, the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), was tipped to spoil the BJP’s party and thus help others such as the Congress to gain a foothold in the region. And yet, nothing of these happened. The Congress failed miserably and the BJP romped home.
The situation is perhaps worse for the Congress this coming Lok Sabha polls. Not only is it pitted against the BJP but it has to also counter the combined might of the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party- RLD. If the Jats are indeed so upset with the BJP that they have decided to vote against it, they will in probability go with the new alliance. The Muslims will not waste their votes on the Congress if they sense that the party is on a weak footing. Which voter segment is the Congress banking on?
Western Uttar Pradesh is also communally sensitive. The Muzaffarnagar riots during the Samajwadi party rule had led to a Hindu-Muslim polarisation of sorts, which benefitted the BJP in the last Assembly polls and brought no gains to the Congress which was unsure of its stand. The new grand alliance has the Dalit-Muslim plan up its sleeve this time to neutralise a possible Hindu re-consolidation.
In the 2017 polls, the RLD had tied up with the Congress but gained little out of that alliance. Many believed that the Congress had pulled down Ajit Singh’s party, which is why the RLD has dumped the Congress for the 2019 elections.
Look at it any which way, Scindia’s official foray into western Uttar Pradesh’s politics is fraught with danger.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)