Can Sheila change electoral fortunes of Congress?


Sheila Dikshit will play a major role in the Congress Party’s poll campaign in Uttar Pradesh as she is a prominent Brahmin face and could help the party to regain support of the electorally sizeable and significant community, whose backing determines the poll outcome on several seats. The community, a traditional vote bank of the Congress, shifted allegiance to BJP in the aftermath of the emergence of Mandir-Mandal politics. A large chunk of Brahmin votes had also gone to Mayawati’s BSP in the past, when she gave tickets to many candidates belonging to the community, but now Dikshit’s entry may swing these votes in favour of Congress in UP assembly election.

Sheila Dikshit is the daughter in law of, Uma Shankar Dikshit, a man who started his political career when he joined the Indian freedom movement, during which he was imprisoned four times. His great contribution to freedom struggle cannot be neglected. He hails from the village in Unnao district adjacent to state capital Lucknow. He pursued his education from Kanpur. Since his student life he joined the freedom movement and was the Secretary of the District Congress Committee Kanpur during the period when Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi was the President of the Committee. He served the country as the Home Minister, Health Minister and Governor of Karnataka and West Bengal. He also served as treasurer of All India Congress Committee and Managing Director of Associated Journals at Lucknow. He founded a Girls Intermediate College at his village Ugu in the memory of his mother. He was awarded Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award in India in 1989, by the Government of India. Sheila’s father in law’s credentials can benefit her.

The Brahmin community plays a significant role in election outcome in central and eastern UP as it is the dominant caste in these areas. Election strategist Prashant Kishor had recommended that Dikshit should play a major role in the party’s poll campaign in the State. Right now, UP needs a leader who can set law and order and also bring some development in the state. Sheila is known as a development leader because of her achievements as Chief Minister of Delhi for three successive terms.

The Congress, however is yet to decide what role Priyanka Gandhi (Vadra) will play in the crucial state polls in 2017, after she decided to entry into active politics. Priyanka is expected to launch the Congress campaign at a rally in either Lucknow or Allahabad — probably from Anand Bhawan — in the second week of August. She will be addressing election meetings in around 120 constituencies. For all political purposes, she will be the face of the Congress campaign.

In the complex caste calculus of the state, the only voter Congress could eye is the Brahmin. The BJP is trying to stitch together a Rajput-Bania-Dalit-Kurmi alliance; the Samajwadi Party banks on Muslim-Yadav combination and Mayawati has a captive base among Dalits and segments of OBCs. The Brahmin vote, the Congress believes, is the only floating one in the state.

In 2012, the Congress polled just around 12 per cent votes. It is hoping that state’s 10 per cent Brahmins, if successfully snared into the fold, can give it the required push for power. Its strategist feels if Brahmins return to the Congress, minority voters may also be tempted to look at the party as a viable option. Although the party may talk big on the election trail, its realistic target is 60-70 seats in a hung Assembly. This number, its strategist feels, will allow it to strike an alliance with the BSP and stay in the game till the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Meanwhile it’s high time; BJP and its supporters need to realize that Congress has been punished for their mistakes time and again including 2014 elections. Now if Modi and BJP make mistakes, they too are going to face the heat in a same way. People have not chosen Modi for Congress Mukt Bharat. They had voted him for development, believing on their slogan ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’. In UP, after 2014’s success hardly any BJP leader gave time to people in their constituency. They were never accessible to the common man. They had become very arrogant. Moreover, Pankaj Singh, Ranveer Singh as Party President and vice-president were not brilliant choices, Lalji Tondon’s son is another spoiler.

Post-Bihar, especially when BJP’s image has taken a beating due to the whole intolerance conversation, UP residents don’t seem to be in a mood to experiment with their political loyalties. So chances are quite low for the Aam Aadmi Party too. The ruling SP is suffering acute anti-incumbency sentiment and its popularity graph is falling down. SP and BSP have a loyal voter base in Yadavs, Muslims, and Dalits which form more than 40 per cent of UP’s population. Another advantage these parties have is presence of strong leadership at state, district and city levels. An advantage that BJP lacks. Now, Sheila Dikshit may not guarantee win for Congress but she will definitely split Brahmin votes and fetch more than expected seats for the party. If polarization is heavy then BJP can manage to sustain, still let’s see who makes it.

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Vaidehi, is an investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical hacker, Philanthropist, Author and an inspiration to many. She is Group Editor of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. Since 8 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi daily tabloid – Mee Mumbaikar, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond the news (international) and Maritime Bridges, dedicated to IT industry, Indian news to the world and shipping industry, respectively. Besides the business perspective, she is an Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP), Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester.