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Greater Noida: Gateway for Congress to western Uttar Pradesh?

Sunday May 15, 2011 12:20:11 PM, Arun Anand, IANS

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The political drama that preceded the arrest and release of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi at Bhatta-Parsaul village is the beginning of the second phase of the Congress' ambitious plan for its revival in Uttar Pradesh.

With the Congress' stock depleting in some of its strongholds like Andhra Pradesh, the revival of the party's political fortune in Uttar Pradesh, which elects 80 members to the Lok Sabha, will play a key role in its bid for power in the 2014 general elections.

In the 2009 elections, the Congress won 21 seats from Uttar Pradesh, surprising its detractors and supporters alike as it showed strong signs of revival in eastern Uttar Pradesh but did not fare well in the western part of the state, which has 27 Lok Sabha and 125 assembly constituencies.

The main opposition party at the centre, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which could win only 10 Lok Sabha seats in 2009, is on the verge of extinction in the state. The political fortunes of the Samajwadi Party, which managed to win 23 seats in 2009, could plummet further as it is likely to face a crisis of leadership in the next few years with no one in sight to replace its top boss and regional strongman, Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Next year the state would go for assembly polls and the Congress has rightly sensed an opportunity to rebuild itself as a formidable political force there to challenge the Bahujan Samaj Party in 2012 and carry forward that momentum to the general elections in 2014.

The Congress party lost its political relevance in Uttar Pradesh - a party stronghold till two and a half decades ago - after the emergence of regional satraps like Mulayam Singh Yadav, Kalyan Singh and Mayawati.

But now with the euphoria of the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation over, resulting in the plummeting of the BJP's fortunes and the Samajwadi Party unable to set its own house in order, the Congress has a real chance of emerging as a political force to reckon with.

Buoyed by the presence of these possibilities, Rahul Gandhi, with the help of a carefully selected group of party leaders and his own aides harped on an ambitious plan to revive the party in the state around four years ago.

In the first phase of this revival plan, the party initially focussed on eastern Uttar Pradesh with Rahul Gandhi himself touring the area extensively and revitalizing the party apparatus there.

In the last couple of years the party has been able to mobilize its cadres effectively in several parts of eastern Uttar Pradesh directly as well as indirectly by propping up several local organizations and forums. They are largely Congress fronts and carefully project themselves as "left of the centre" organizations.
As the agitation by farmers against the Mayawati government opposing the acquisition of their land gained momentum in Bhatta-Parsaul village in Greater Noida which is a part of western Uttar Pradesh's political landscape, Congress strategists sensed an opportunity to turn the village into a gateway for their party's grand entry in the region.

The Congress tested waters with Rahul Gandhi going to Bhatta-Parsaul Wednesday. The village, during the week, became a battleground between representatives of the state machinery backed fully by Chief Minister Mayawati and the agitating local farmers who have the support of all the major opposition parties.

Rahul Gandhi's dramatic arrival on motorcycle here followed by his even more dramatic arrest and release by the local administration in a late night operation Wednesday and the angry reaction of Mayawati Thursday has indicated that the Congress strategy has partially worked.

However, it would not be easy to carry the momentum created Wednesday to rest of the western UP or other parts of the state as the political constituencies in this state are complex with perpetually changing loyalties. The important role played by caste politics make this political landscape even more complex.

A clear indication is that so far the agitation at Bhatti-Parsaul and surrounding areas has not found resonance amongst farmers in other parts of the state except a few pockets in western Uttar Pradesh.

One of the major reasons is that land acquisition is not an important issue for most of the farmers in this state. For the large number of small and marginal farmers, who constitute a majority of the agricultural class in the state, survival is linked to other important issues such as fragmented land holdings, lack of irrigation and power, rising cost of inputs, poor technology and absence of state support system.

(Arun Anand can be contacted at




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