Two-day UP Congress convention in Varanasi

Riding high on the wave of farmers` agitation in Uttar Pradesh, Congress is expected to come out with a strategy for the Assembly polls next year to pose a challenge to Chief Minister Mayawati.

Updated: May 17, 2011, 20:17 PM IST

New Delhi: Riding high on the wave of
farmers` agitation in Uttar Pradesh, Congress is expected to
come out with a strategy for the Assembly polls next year to
pose a challenge to Chief Minister Mayawati at a convention in
Varanasi beginning on Wednesday.

The convention is being held at a time when party
leader Rahul Gandhi has taken the confrontation with the
ruling BSP to a new level by complaining to Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh about the "repression" of farmers by
authorities in Greater Noida during the farmers` stir.

In fact, Gandhi, who led the campaign in the Lok Sabha
elections in 2009 in the state when the party secured 22 of
the 80 seats, will be inaugurating the two-day conference.

Party chief Sonia Gandhi will be delivering the
valedictory address at the convention in which she is expected
to come out with the blueprint for Mission Uttar Pradesh 2012,
as the poll battle is being dubbed by the party.

Congress is in political wilderness in Uttar Pradesh
for the last 22 years in the wake of the Mandal and the Mandir
surge and its revival has started only in the last Lok Sabha

The Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls in 2007 are seen as a
defining moment in Indian politics given the fact that it saw
Mayawati securing a majority in the politically-crucial state
on her own by ousting the Mulayam Singh Yadav-led Samajwadi
Party coalition from power.

Congress has ruled out joining hands with any major
party like the SP or BSP, but has not ruled out having poll
tie-ups with smaller parties in the state.

BJP, which ruled UP a decade back, has now turned a
laggard and is seeking to get its house in order. A meeting of
the National Executive of the BJP is being held at Lucknow
early next month to devise strategy for revival.

Congress sources say that the party is moving towards
having a strategic tie-up with Ajit Singh-led RLD if the
latter refuses to merge his party with Congress.

The two-day convention will see top party leaders
brainstorming with state party workers about the strategy to
be adopted for the Assembly elections. Sonia Gandhi and party
general secretary in-charge for Uttar Pradesh Digvijay Singh
will also address a rally.

The party is leaving no stone unturned in its bid to
revive itself in the home state of the Gandhi-Nehru family.
Stakes are high for the Congress in Uttar Pradesh as
it had come a cropper in neighbouring Bihar in the Assembly
polls last year despite Rahul virtually leading the campaign

Leaders like Digvijay Singh are insisting that UP is
not Bihar as the party organisation was geared up in Lucknow
unlike in Patna.

After a spectacular show in last Lok Sabha elections,
the party is being taken seriously by its detractors. A
meeting of newly constituted state executive will also be held
before the convention, which will be chaired by UPCC President
Rita Bahuguna Joshi.

The party hopes to come out with the first list of
candidates for the Assembly polls within a month and it will
be for the first time that Congress will announce names of its
candidates for any Assembly election one year before the
election schedule.

Congress leaders say that the names of candidates will
be announced earlier so that they get time to prepare for
election and if there is any dissent, it could also peter out
by the time elections come.

The confrontation between the Congress and BSP is set
to intensify in coming days as the Congress has also announced
plans to take the battle to the home turf of Chief Minister

As per the plans, a party rally is being held at
village Badalpur, native place of the BSP supremo, in the
first week of next month. The village falls in Gautam Budh
Nagar district, where land agitations have kept Mayawati
government on its toes.

Congress plans to use the rally to attack Maywati on
the issue of corruption and highlight `atrocities against even
Dalits` in a state ruled by a Dalit Chief Minister. It is
alleging that Mayawati had bought land in her native
place which was acquired by the state government for public

The Chief Minister, on her part, has embarked on
poll preparations on a war footing and has even announced most
of the candidates for the exercise to the 403-member Assembly.
Similar has been the case with Mulayam Singh Yadav`s
Samajwadi Party which has also announced several candidates.