As the 2019 elections draw closer, Congress seems to be scampering to get its caste equations right, especially in Uttar Pradesh which is the largest state in terms of Lok Sabha seats. Congress has now appointed Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as the in-charge of Uttar Pradesh East.
Putting the long-standing speculations to rest about Priyanka Gandhi Vadra entering politics in an official capacity, the appointment of Vadra cannot just be viewed from the prism of another member of the Dynasty entering politics.
Ahead of 2019, especially in Uttar Pradesh, we have already seen how Congress, BSP and SP are indulging in shadow boxing in order to get their caste equations right. We have reported earlier how SP and BSP have allied in Uttar Pradesh leaving Congress out and are creating an illusion of SP and BSP not getting along with Congress. However, in practice, the truth might be far from it. Congress is perhaps distancing itself from BSP and SP in Uttar Pradesh to the two regional parties are free to woo the Dalit, Muslim and Yadav votes while Congress, fighting alone, can woo the upper-caste Brahmin votes.
For the BSP, the core vote bank is the Dalit faction. For SP the core vote banks are the Yadavs and Muslims. An alliance with Congress whose President, Rahul Gandhi has been sporting a janeu lately could have proven to be electorally catastrophic. The shadow boxing would perhaps serve several purposes. The BSP could consolidate their Dalit votes while SP could consolidate Muslim and Yadav votes. In the meantime, Congress, with its pseudo temple hopping could attempt to pander to the upper caste votes thereby splitting the BJP’s vote share.
Now, with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra being made the in-charge of Uttar Pradesh East, that theory seems to be taking shape in practical terms.
Now, in understanding with SP and BSP, it seems that Congress has appointed Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to Eastern UP in charge to woo upper caste voters and old loyalists of Congress who might have been disenchanted with Rahul Gandhi as the heir to the throne. The hope is obvious: old Congress loyalists would see Priyanka Gandhi in the likeliness of Indira Gandhi as would the upper caste Hindus who see Rahul Gandhi as an heir who has continually appeased the minorities.
This seems to be Congress’ attempt to act as a vote-cutter in Uttar Pradesh. Rahul Gandhi seems to be hoping that the appointment of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will ensure a percentage of the votes that went to BJP would accrue to Congress. The traditional BJP voters would not vote for Rahul Gandhi, however, Priyanka Gandhi could prove to be the perfect vote-cutter, or so Congress hopes.
Earlier as well, Shiela Dixit was all set to become the Chief Minister candidate and hence was used to woo the upper caste votes before Congress joined hands with Akhilesh Yadav, post which, Dixit was unceremoniously dumped. The Congress seems to have learnt its lesson now and fielding Priyanka Gandhi Vadra while pretending to distance itself from SP and BSP seems to be the perfect ploy.
Congress has been recently trying to woo the upper middle class and disenchant the strongest group that has traditionally supported BJP and Prime Minister Modi. Congress, in fact, much to everyone’s surprise also supported the 10% reservation bill for the poor introduced by the Modi government because presumably, they did not want to appear to be against Hindus other than the backward classes. Ahead of the recently concluded state elections, one recalls how Congress drummed up the rhetoric on SC-ST Act, forcing BJP’s hand and leading to the overturning of the Supreme Court’s verdict diluting the SC/ST Act. It is widely believed that this step contributed to BJP’s loss in the three states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.
Congress has also been abusing Modi using caste slurs and taking potshots at his humble background, presumably, assuming that this would get their brownie points with upper caste Hindus.
While these tactics may be morally or ethically questionable, whether they work electorally remains to be seen.