VENKATESH KESARI | 15 MARCH, 2017
NEW DELHI: The outcome of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls has shattered the dream of three leaders, in all probability four, aspiring to be Prime Minister of India.
Uttar Pradesh still remains the State that makes Prime Ministers, with Narendra Modi himself having bought this reality by contesting, and retaining, the Varanasi Lok Sabha seat in 2014. Given the high stakes and seats involved, winners of this state can get the backing required to pitch for the Prime Ministerial post, either as the head of a resurgent party or as the leader of a coalition of regional parties.
Bahujan Samaj party’s Mayawati, and Samajwadi party leader Akhilesh Yadav both had this in mind with the former particularly hopeful that victory in UP would place her at the head of any coalition formation for the 2019 elections.
Mayawati's Rajya Sabha term will end in April next year,that is one year before the general elections. Akhilesh Yadav is a member of the UP legislative council.
Currently,the BSP does not have a single member in the Lok Sabha. It has drawn a blank in the Delhi assembly polls that it contested and its social engineering is not helping in getting even the seats required to place it in the position of a King maker at any level. Mayawati’s political relevance before 2019 polls that she will of course contest, is thus substantially reduced.
SP leader Akhilesh Yadav, although in alliance with the Congress, was optimistic that the elections would give him a good majority by which he could pitch for the post in 2019 with the support of other parties. Although the Congress campaign in UP insisted that Akhilesh Yadav would be the CM in preparation for Rahul Gandhi as the PM, the Samajwadi election campaign did not even hint at the second possibility. It merely said that the Alliance would last.
The third top contender at least insofar as the Aam Aadmi Party is concerned, was Arvind Kejriwal. A Punjab victory was sorely needed by the party to move into Gujarat, where Kejriwal has already started trying to forge alliances, and from there on to other Hindi belt states as and when the Assembly elections came up. Chhatisgarh was well within his sights.
The defeat in Punjab for Kejriwal, and in UP for the other two has put paid to these ambitions for now at least. AAP is confined to Delhi where its powers have been curtailed completely by the centre, and while it is still looking at Gujarat its own members admit that now the fight has become very difficult. Without at least two or three states behind him, Kejriwal cannot think of emerging as a national alternative on his own, or with the support of others as not a single political party in power in a state will back him.
The ambition of plus one candidate for PM Rahul Gandhi has also been hit hard, with UP bringing his ability to lead the Congress let alone the nation, under a big question mark. The Congress did emerge as the single largest party in Goa and Manipur but was outmaneuvered in government formation by the BJP. The Punjab victory is also being seen more as a Amarinder Singh feat, with Rahul Gandhi getting virtually no credit. However, since the Congress still remains albeit at a rather low level, the only other national party Rahul Gandhi can still be more hopeful than the other three whose aspirations are currently in tatters.
The Congress has not been able to make realistic assessment of its debacle in the UP assembly polls which saw the grand old party get less than ten seats. Asked whether a Bihar type "Mahagatbandhan" would have checkmated the BJP in UP, a former chief minister said the Bihar experiment succeeded not because of the pre poll alliance of JD(U),RJD,Congress but because Lalu Prasad Yadav was not the chief ministerial candidate as he was debarred from contesting elections.
The results have however, revived talk about a regional grouping with a former chief minister maintaining that the regional satraps are keen now to maintain a distance from the BJP that is ‘devouring’ all it comes close to. The Shiv Sena in Maharashtra is a vocal example.
The Modi march, the sources said, is being seen as a threat by the Telegu Desam supremo and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu,currently a NDA partner. As well as by the Biju Janata Dal chief and Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. and the former ally the BJD chief and Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik.However, the current victory has been of sufficient proportions to silence all along with the Shiv Sena.
Meanwhile the BJP is going through the exercise of selecting a Chief Minister for UP. Quite contrary to media reports Home Ministr Rajnath Singh is not in the reckoning at all. As the sources said, PM Modi and BJP President Amit Shah will decide from amongst the winners, and as was the case in Maharashtra and Jharkhand, will go with a loyalist from either the upper castes or more probably the backward. The names of Dinesh Sharma and Keshav Prasad Maurya are making the rounds.