In 2008 if you had said the Congress could revive in Uttar Pradesh you would have been laughed at. No party structure or caste base, you would have been told. In 2009, Rahul Gandhi earned perhaps the first laurel of his political career by proving critics wrong. He beat conventional wisdom by saying no to allying with the Samajwadi Party and the Congress won just 22 of 406 seats. Since then, Congress revival in UP has been taken for granted in many corners. Some pundits were predicting as many as 100 seats for the Congress this election. This speculation had a good basis: Rahul Gandhi always left crowds happy. And he flew on a helicopter addressing as many as 4 rallies a day. If you spoke to the people who attended his rallies, you’d be surprised by the amount of goodwill he created for himself. The rise in vote share despite the poor seat performance is proof for the rising appreciation of the Congress’ efforts to regain relevance in state politics. But then, what went wrong? Continue reading Why Rahul Gandhi’s Congress flopped in Uttar Pradesh→
Like nearly every village in South Asia, Allahpur, in the east Indian state of Bihar, is geographically divided on the lines of caste. On one side of a dirt track live the upper-caste Muslims (Syeds, Sheikhs and Pathans) and on the other side live the lower-caste Muslims (Ansaris, Dhunias and Raains). There are only four Hindu families in Allahpur, and they are all lower castes, their houses amid the low-caste Muslim houses.
For five years now, the low caste Muslims have been praying at a ramshackle mosque they built, boycotting the mosque in the upper-caste Muslim area, a stone’s throw away.
This article by me has appeared (.pdf) in the Economic and Political Weekly.
On 14 April this year party general secretary Rahul Gandhi launched the Congress’ biggest campaign to revive itself since 1989. The date was carefully chosen, Ambedkar Jayanti, because he is trying to win over dalit votes in Uttar Pradesh (UP). In 1989 the Congress’ support base in UP was made up of a rainbow coalition of brahmins, Muslims and dalits. The Congress has to woo these communities again to regain power in UP.
The brahmin community took to the now ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in small numbers in the 2007 Vidhan Sabha election primarily because there was no strong brahmin leader after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Atal Behari Vajpayee became politically inactive. Brahmins see in Rahul Gandhi a potential “brahmin” leader. The UP Congress president, legislative leader and Youth Congress president in the state are all from the brahmin community.
Muslim support is no longer enchained to the Samajwadi Party (SP) because their bete noire, the BJP, is powerless these days in both the centre and the state. As a result the Muslim vote is being fought for, as a three-way contest between BSP, SP and Congress. BSP head and Chief Minister Mayawati’s stratagem is to therefore change her party’s core support base constructed out of the “brahmin-dalit” alliance into a Muslim-dalit alliance.
The dalits, wooed away en masse by the Kanshi Ram-Mayawati duo of the BSP for years, would be the hardest to win back for the Congress. In fact, a year ago the very idea would have sounded ludicrous. But today, Mayawati’s angry reaction to the Congress’ bid to woo dalits is indication that the Congress may be winning over dalits. How is this happening? Continue reading Rahul Gandhi and the Dalit votebank in Uttar Pradesh→
The 2009 Lok Sabha elections in India were projected to be a historical turning point just as the 2008 Presidential elections in the U.S. were a turning point. But the nature of that expected turning point was very different.
Five years ago, even two years before the elections, no one in the U.S. would have expected that a “Black” man with two Muslim names and one African name could have been elected President of the United States. Yet it happened, and it happened not simply because Barack Husain Obama ran a brilliant campaign and is proving the most effective president in dealing with the economic and social crises besetting the world today, but also because of the racial transformation the U.S. has undergone in recent decades. Continue reading Historic Mandate, Historic Turning Point or More of the Same? Gail Omvedt on Elections 2009→
The photograph above has been sent to me, in my capacity as a journalist, by the PR company hired by Jai Prakash Aggarwal. He was the Congress candidate from the North East Delhi seat, a replacement for Jagdish Tytler. Aggarwal is also the president of the Delhi unit of the Indian National Congress party, that has returned to power with a less encumbering coalition than the one it ran for five years. JP Aggarwal was a reluctant replacement: he was also a Rajya Sabha MP and feared he might lose to the BJP, which would be a great embarrassment for him as the president of the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee. But the Congress insisted they wanted a ‘baniya’ for the seat. Happily for him, he has won, and this press release is about how the Vaish community has honoured him. Continue reading People of the Vaish Community Honouring Shri JP Aggarwal…→