Friday, October 7, 2016

UP Elections: Rahul's Kisan Yatra Resonates

UP Elections & Rahul's Yatra

Election for UP legislative assembly is sometime in early 2017. However, the first move has been made by the Congress.

Rahul Gandhi, the VP of Congress Party took out a high profile 26 day long rally across 146 constituencies of UP. The Congress party which had a dismal run in the 2014 Parliamentary elections, and which has been reduced to only 28 MLAs in UP assembly is betting big on UP elections to turnaround its fortunes.

It has hired Prasanth Kishore, who was the brain behind the Chai pe Charcha and other campaigns for Modi's 2014 victory as well as Bihar Election victory for the Nitish Kumar led JD(U)-RJD-Congress. Congress apart from the win in Bihar as a part of the Nitish Kumar led alliance doesn't have much to show. It has also lost the Assam elections. The thinking is that if Congress continues to do bad in UP, then any revival of Congress won't be possible.

Congress has signed the agreement with Prasanth Kishore's organisation for both Punjab and UP elections. Whereas, Congress is in a strong position in Punjab, UP is where the problem lies.

Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are the only two MPs of Congress from UP. There are no Congress leaders with mass base in UP. In this backdrop, the 26 day long Rahul's UP roadshow is somewhat unthinkable. And more importantly, doing such a long duration roadshow with more than six months before the elections can easily be forgotten. So what is the plan of Congress?

Prasanth Kishore seems to have correctly identified the problem. Congress has been out of power in UP for the last 27 years. SP, BSP and BJP have had power in UP, either alone or in various combinations. Congress has been an also ran party in UP, which is India's biggest state.

It takes time to convince people. So Prasanth Kishore first did a big rally of Rahul Gandhi in Lucknow. He forced local Congress leaders to book the biggest ground and tasked each one of them to mobilse supporters and fill it. That success led to people believing that they can do it. Then he held a roadshow with Sonia Gandhi in Varanashi. Psychologically Varanashi being the constituency of Narendra Modi, a lot of Congress leaders were not comfortable. Nevertheless, that became a success and led to people believing that there is support for Congress.

After that Rahul Gandhi's roadshow termed as "Kisan Yatra" covering 48 districts, 146 constituencies, 3438 kms starting from Deoria to Delhi was started. It was completed in Delhi yesterday ie on 6th October.

Even before Prasanth Kishore tying up with Congress, Rahul Gandhi had succeeded in pushing the Modi Government with his successive and well timed jibes of "Suit-boot ki sarkar" and terming the Govt. as anti-farmer. This had led to the Government dropping the Ordinance on land acquisition. Prasanth Kishore has successfully taken that theme and branded this roadshow as Kisan Yatra. This is to appeal to all the farming community.

This is a good move because, at the moment the allegiance of the UP electorate is fragmented along caste and religious lines. Whereas, the Samajwadi Party (SP) attracts the Muslims and the Yadavs, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) attracts the backward classes. The forward classes as well as other had voted en-masse for the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections due to the unprecedented hype created by Modi to bring development.

Stressing that the development plank of the BJP is only for a few industrialists and the farmers are increasingly marginalised and committing suicide, the Congress wants to cut across various casts and bring the farming community to Congress.

Also, Congress has been attacked as only pandering to the interests of minorities. So the suggestion by Prasanth Kishore to have a brahmin face as the Chief Ministerial candidate of UP was a master stroke. So now Sheila Dixit, three time Chief-Minister of Delhi, is the Chief Ministerial candidate of Congress. And informally it has been told to everybody that out of the 400+ seats of UP, close to 25% ie. 100 seats will be given to Brahmins.

The Brahmins with about 9% population can cause a major swing towards Congress. Muslims are known to vote strategically in many places. Once they know that Brahmin vote is for Congress, then they too will vote for Congress. This will ensure a winning combination. Ofcourse, we know that not everybody will vote en-masse. Nevertheless, it is a good theory and is plausible.

Even before the announcement of Sheila Dixit as the Chief Ministerial candidate, the names of Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi were floated. It was well known that Rahul Gandhi being in the centre will not be the Chief Minister and also Priyanka Gandhi will not jump in officially. So it was basically to create lot of hype and discussion. At a time when Congress was not in news, this led to several days of discussions in various channels and important column space in newspapers. Clearly this shows that Prasanth Kishore is a guy who thinks strategically and knows how to create events out of thin air to get people excited.

The success of Rahul Gandhi's Kisan Yatra can be gauged from the fact that the ruling Samajwadi Party created some roadblocks by not allowing roadshows in certain places. Clearly, the other parties despite continuing to trash Rahul Gandhi, have taken notice.

It is said that Prasanth Kishore's team on behalf of Congress has collected Kisan Mang Patra's which contain details of agricultural loans of farmers from UP. This would come in handy not only as a political tool to press for their case, but also help in data analytics and in targeting future messages to these people.

It would be interesting to see the next moves of Congress and Prasanth Kishore to understand how they want to take the UP visit forward. Clearly, we see an approach which is often used in USA politics and had not been used before in India. There will be several efforts from other parties to change the narrative by staging events, else Rahul Gandhi's congress will run away with the credits. So interesting times indeed for people who are interested in politics and to see how one can position and reposition a brand. Watch this space. There is more to come....

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