Yogi Adityanath bulldozing his way through with little or no resistance from Congress, SP & BSP
By VIRENDRA SINGH RAWAT
LUCKNOW, Aug 19 (The CONNECT) - Yogi Adityanath was a surprise choice for the post of Chief Minister when Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept the Uttar Pradesh elections by scooping more than 75 percent of the state assembly seats in 2017.
However, he proved critics, who had questioned his abilities, wrong by leading the saffron party to wins in the successive elections, including Lok Sabha, urban local bodies, rural urban bodies and also bypolls.
The presumably lack of experience, his past ‘bitter-sweet’ equation with the BJP and his eponymous firebrand Hindutva image was estimated as his undoing by detractors, both within and outside the party. Much to their chagrin, Brand Yogi gained heft slowly yet surely with the UP CM figuring among the top election campaigners for BJP in other states.
But, the crisis unfolded by Covid-19 pandemic coupled with Yogi’s rumoured cold vibes with the Prime Minister and BJP biggest mascot of the day Narendra Modi were seen as taking the wind out of the sails of the monk-turned-politician.
The sudden appearance of retired bureaucrat Arvind Kumar Sharma, considered close to Modi, in UP political firmament further gave credence to the grapevine of impending changes in the state government even as the BJP led Uttarakhand regime had already witnessed a change of guard.
Yogi Adityanath was seen by a section of the media analysts as the proverbial sacrificial lamb at the political altar in the run up to the big battle in the early months of 2022, when BJP was not ready to take any chances. The CM’s style of functioning and occasional voices of dissent by party legislators was only adding fuel to fire.
Nonetheless, the opposition parties, which had initially exhibited zeal and strategic finesse, to corner Yogi at such a crucial juncture by either forging a pre-poll alliance/understanding or conjuring up robust narratives or offering an alternative to BJP, are in utter disarray after losing focus of the big picture for a course correction in run up to the big battle.
While Yogi has further firmly entrenched his position in the UP party setup by perceptibly refusing to induct Sharma into the state council of ministers, both Modi and home minister Amit Shah have since showed rich plaudits on the CM for his ‘remarkable’ role in leading the state during pandemic, and underscored that the 2022 elections would be held under his ‘inspiring’ leadership.
The disillusionment of the key opposition parties viz. Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Congress have only amplified in the past few weeks as the election time draws near. This would mean that Yogi will have it rather easier than the expected cliff hanger contest in 2022.
Let’s look at Samajwadi Party. Helmed by Akhilesh Yadav, ex UP CM, the party is considered to be the most viable opposition force to take on BJP next year. It has an active grassroots presence in all the 75 districts. Moreover, he has started the process of cycle yatras, which he normally undertakes during election year.
Yadav is, however, yet to win a major election on his own after taking over the reins of the socialist party from his father and SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav. SP has tasted humiliating defeat in 2017 UP Legislative Assembly polls and 2019 Lok Sabha polls even as majority of the seniors have either died of old age or are indisposed to inspire the younger lot.
The party had a truck with Congress and BSP in previous polls, but it proved disastrous to it both politically and ideologically. Frankly, junior Yadav is yet to match up to Mulayam in election management and sewing lucrative alliances. He has also not made up with his estranged uncle and former UP minister Shivpal Singh Yadav.
In fact, Akhilesh had recently advised the opposition parties to first decide on the main adversary in the coming UP polls, which indicates he is looking to forge an alliance with other parties.
As far as BSP is concerned, the Mayawati led party has suffered a string of election defeats and desertions by its top leaders, including Naseemuddin Siddiqui, Swami Prasad Maurya and Brijesh Pathak. While Siddiqui has joined Congress, the remaining two are now BJP members and serving as UP cabinet ministers.
Besides, Mayawati has recast her political strategy and is now more vocal against the Congress than the saffron outfit, especially after BSP legislators joined en masse the Ashok Gehlot led Congress government in Rajasthan.
Interestingly, her tweets often resonate the official lines taken by BJP in important national matters, thus giving an impression that the two organisations have struck an informal pact ahead of the high octane polls although they simultaneously feed the public discourse of criticising each other occasionally.
Congress? When Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was anointed the party general secretary in charge of UP ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha polls, there were high expectations from the Nehru-Gandhi progeny from all quarters. Her entry, however, was marked by the shock defeat of Rahul Gandhi from the Congress’ turf of Amethi at the hands of a comparative light weight Smriti Irani.
Congress today is a pale shadow of its glorious past in UP with a demoralised and disillusioned rank and file. The high profile exit of Jyotiraditya Scindia and Jitin Prasad, both considered to be key Team Rahul members, from the party has only deepened the cesspool.
Seasoned UP Congress leaders rue the party is now filled with former Left wing leaders after Priyanka took charge of the state unit. Recently, an expelled party leader had lodged an FIR against UP Congress president Ajay Kumar Lallu and others for alleged rioting, causing hurt, intentional insult, criminal intimidation and promoting enmity.
A senior Congress leader lamented that the party high command needs to smell the coffee and take steps to resolve the malaise and arrest the frequent flight of leaders to the rival camps.
As things stand, it's advantage Yogi in the UP tennis court.