Uttar Pradesh: Akhilesh wins the Battle Royale

At the end, it was a tale of two Princes in UP - one won and the other lost.

Akrita Reyar

I thought the tone had been set in the morning itself. In the early hours of counting, Rita Bahuguna went public about how she was willing to be the fall guy (or gal)! “If Congress fails to perform despite the intensive campaigning by Rahul ji, then it will be the fault of the contestants and the state organization. And I being state chief, the responsibility would be mine,” she bravely offered.

The point of submitting yourself at the altar as the proverbial sacrificial lamb comes only when you face certain defeat. And there is no dearth in the Congress Tier II, who will do everything to protect the Queen and her progeny – particularly Prince Rahul. So P L Punia followed minutes later mouthing identical lines.

So predictable, so boring.

But Uttar Pradesh turned out to be a bag of surprises. Despite exit polls predicting Samajwadi Party to be the single largest party, nobody really imagined a standalone majority scenario.

Akhilesh - the other Prince - scion of the Yaduvanshis, must have had his ear to the ground. Packaging himself and his father as powerful combo of youth and experience, he presented Samajwadi Party as a formidable alternative to the BSP. He offered another win-win combination - a joint dose of old and new politics. So you had a promise of 18% reservation for Muslims (beating Congress at it) along with laptops to Class XII pass-outs and tablets for those who clear Class X exams. You may recall, SP in the 2007 avatar had anathema for all things touched by technology. Invention is the mother of all necessity, reinvention that of Indian politics.

Even in his victory speech, there was the “humbled” Akhilesh Yadav promising the fulfillment of manifesto promises including the implementation the Sachchar Committee and Rangnath Misra Commission recommendations.

Equally, there was the promise of professional education without any fees to students with annual family income of less than Rs 5 lakh in the manifesto.

The delicate balancing act may have been missed by the national media (which had kept its lens fixed on Rahul), but was consumed with gusto by state level and Hindi papers.

The young satrap was more than helped by Mayawati, who was facing a huge anti-incumbency wave along with a string of corruption charges against her team.

Former family welfare minister Babu Singh Kushwaha and health minister Anant Kumar Mishra are embroiled in the National Rural Health Mission scam; the former minister’s name also crops up in the case involving murder of three doctors in the same case.

Several other ministers in the BSP government are also facing inquiries by the Lokayukta. A desperate Mayawati cancelled tickets to the tainted and then tried to whip up the issue of division of Uttar Pradesh.

But nothing seems to have worked. Possibly, these were more like last minute attempts. Through her term, Behenji had been so full of self importance that she got totally immersed in her elephantine ambitions of immortality – spending millions on erecting her statues, purse and duppata very much intact.

To give the devil its due, Mayawati did deliver high economic growth rates for the state much like the SAD-BJP government in Punjab, but in the heat and dust of Indian politics, it is proven time and again that these are but numbers.

Obviously the fabled jinx of the CM who visits and campaigns in Noida loses, seems to have worked.

Rahul who had aimed for doubling the Congress vote share from last time, didn’t reach even that mark; losing seats even in Rae Bareli and Amethi.

It was unfortunate that the Congress relied upon olden day tactics of appeasing farmers (a la Bhatta Parsul) and minorities. Salman Khurshid first made butchery of the Batla episode and then started the entire minority reservation game. And that too in Azamgarh! Rather than appealing to minorities, it may have actually repulsed them; coming across like the “we have seen this, heard this before”.

Besides, the lack of state level leaders - especially a clear cut chief ministerial candidate - hurt the Congress. People show confidence in a person who directly holds the reins of their destiny than someone who would remote control from New Delhi.
For Congress the bad news now relates to the fact that the UP result in no way helps the national level scenario and they would have to put up with Mamata’s tantrums for some time yet.

By 4 pm on counting day, the scion of the Gandhi family had gone public and for the first time accepted responsibility for the poor show. Good boy, Rahul.

For BJP anything less than 60-70 would have spelt very very bad news. By the time the picture was clear, it did. Fact of the matter is that BJP disappeared from UP with the disappearance of Vajpayee. These days, there are hardly any state heavy weights – not even Rajnath Singh. Nitin Gadkari had to rely on imports like Uma Bharati, who has found, much out to her dismay, that her Ayodhya hey days are behind her. Another expected import Narendra Modi didn’t even turn up because he was sulking over Sanjay Joshi getting an organizational position and a role in UP.

There was a third import from within UP, BSP’s notorious Kushwaha, who turned out be more of an albatross strangling BJP’s image as a non-corrupt party.

BJP’s Gadkari, who should have been evaluating reasons for his party’s rout, was content blaming Rahul for Congress’ non-show! Clearly, UP has deflated his plans and his PC a bit of his shrinking stature…phat phat phish.

At the end, it was a tale of two Princes. One won and the other lost in the mean battleground of hinterland politics.

But for once, and refreshingly, the blue blooded scion accepted responsibility and took the blame. Because when you are royalty, you must learn to take it on your chin!