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OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion now in Hindi अब आप के लिये हिंदी मे.
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The 7 phase poll schedule for assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh announced by the Election Commission is the latest twist in the grand Indian Political Drama that continues to be played in Uttar Pradesh. Reactions to this latest twist depend on which side of the political and ideological divide one resides. The Congress got its face saver after having raised the stakes on the viability of the Mulayam Singh Yadav Samajwadi Government. The BJP which was egging the congress to impose President’s rule got something new to change the subject in the face of awkward questions from its NDA allies. Mulayam Singh Yadav and his pal Amar Singh who have been firing away from all available guns accusing foreign powers, industrial houses and everything else under the sun for the move to impose President’s rule, have been desperate to paint themselves the victim. The wily communists meanwhile attempted to appropriate some constitutional high ground with the CPI-M stalling anymoves by the UPA to impose President’s Rule. The all round cacophony saw regional outfits with practically no stakes in Uttar Pradesh reiterate their opposition to the use of Article 356.

Offstumped begins the countdown to the battle for Uttar Pradesh looking at sequence of events since the Supreme Court decision on the disqualification of the 13 BSP MLAs and the subsequent moves by the Congress to impose President’s rule.

The news in New Delhi and Uttar Pradesh since that the fateful decision by the Supreme Court has been dominated by how much longer before the Mulayam Government goes. Predictably the BSP, BJP and every other outfit electorally opposed to Mulayam clamoured for the government to be dismissed. But then when was the last time the Congress indulged its rivals in imposing President’s rule. If memory serves us right if anything the Congress has always acted to put its rivals out of power with President’s rule.

So what explains this head over heels eagerness on the part of the Congress to impose President’s rule in Uttar Pradesh when in fact it stands a distant 4th in the electoral sweepstakes and not even the most loyal Rahul Gandhi sycophant is predicting an upswing in Congress fortunes in UP.

Now it is important to note in the last 2 occassions when Congress took the constitutional missteps of dismissing or installing government’s of its choice through the office of the Governor in both Jharkhand and Bihar it was at the insistence of Lalu Yadav and an eager beaver Governor acting beyond his brief. In both occassions the Congress received a slap in the face from the Supreme Court and the local leaders the ire of Sonia Gandhi.

So clearly this extraordinary pressure from the Congress to dismiss Mulayam was not from the local unit or over enthusiastic underlings. The fact that the CWC was summoned to discuss this means this had the sanction of the “High Command” despite the sphinx like silence from the “High Command”.

This raises the question why is Sonia Gandhi keen to see the end of the Mulayam regime.

To understand the deep personal animosity towards the Mulayam camp one must rewind back to the 2004 general elections which saw no holds barred personal invective from the Mulayam camp. The unseemly spectacle of an uninvited Amar Singh trooping along with a conniving Harkishen Singh Surjeet to 10 Janpath on the eve of the formation of the UPA Government was just the beginning of a serious public snubs and insults exchanged between the Gandhis and the Mulayam camp. That during all this the Congress was supporting Mulayam in UP and the Samajwadi Party was supporting the UPA in New Delhi was one of the many ironies that characterised the Politics of Opportunism that both Mulayam and the Congress have come to stand for.

This absurd arrangement of political convenience has since been put to an end with mutual withdrawals of support.

However the President’s Rule that was not to be in UP has since become the subject of intense speculation in the mainstream media. The media has been in a rush to crown winners and trash losers ever since the congress move came unstuck.

If one were to believe the mainstream media the Congress has taken a beating, the BJP has exposed its opportunism, Mulayam has regained lost ground and the CPI-M has come out on the top with its third front ambitions one step closer to reality.

The reality however is quite far removed from this rather simplistic read on the recent events. The electorate in Uttar Pradesh is perhaps the most apathetic in the country right now after having been treated to some of the worst regimes and legislative uncertainity in recent history. There is no undecided swing voter out there waiting to be persuaded. The common is in general cynical of all the outfits. Depending on your caste or religious persuasion the motivated voter already has deep affiliations that transcend recent political events. The rabid muslim appeasement has already polarized a significant percentage of the motivated upper caste hindu vote. The rest of the motivated hindu electorate is pretty much likely to go by the calculus of caste. What remains perhaps is the Muslim vote which is where really the battleground is.

The Muslim vote which traditionally went to the Congress in the past and migrated to Mulayam post Ayodhya is up for grabs. The contenders for this vote are many ranging from VP Singh and Raj Babbar’s outfit to Imam Bukhari to an amalgamation of Muslim outfits attempting to replicate the Badruddin Ajmal Experiment from Assam. The Congress with its threat to dismiss Mulayam has neither endeared the muslim nor estranged it. Mulayam with his attempt to paint himself as the victim is not winning anymore muslim votes either. The BSP which nearly burnt its bridges with Muslims with the comments from Mayawati is not gaining any friends either here. So in summary in the one segment of the population whose votes are up for grabs these recent votes have barely been of any consequence. So all the media speculation while making for good political gossip means little in concrete terms for the immideate election.

Coming to the question of the 3rd front and a post 2009 general election scenario, the CPI-M and its closet communist buddies in the media are smoking pipe dreams. The one lesson the Congress learnt after its earlier experiments with propping up Chandrashekar and subsequently Deve Gowda and IK Gujral was that it stood to gain nothing by suporting a 3rd front government from the outside and if anything it hurt allowed the 3rd front parties to grow at its expense in Bihar, UP and elsewhere. There is no scenario where a 3rd front amalgamation can make it past the 272 mark in Parliament on its own. Given that is the case there is no scenario in which the Congress is likely to indulge the CPI-M in government making ambitions of its own.

So while the closet communists and their communal socialists buddies might get their adrenaline up on the prospect of a 3rd front it is a pipe dream. 2 years is a long time in politics and the Anti-Article 356 sentiment within the NDA is no sustaining fault line that could sway the restive allies the CPI-M way. As for the rest, the AIADMK is a mercurial ally for any political configuration and hence doesnt count for much. The TDP since Naidu’s debacle has lost its political bearings, Naidu is dreaming if he can do a Deve Gowda in case of a 3rd front grouping coming to power, the reality is the TDP is a one man show and he will go the Gowda way if he ever nurtures any national ambitions.

Offstumped Bottomline: The battle for Uttar Pradesh is likely to end up being the battle for the Muslim Vote and the battle to get the apathetic cynical voter to show up at the polling booth. The final outcome will likely be determined by how much the Muslim and Dalit vote splits and how much the BJP turns out its base.

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