K. Ramachandra Murthy

Lucknow: Congress party is committing harakiri in Uttar Pradesh by holding Priyanka Gandhi back from campaigning in the elections. What has been going on in UP is a war between two generations. The older generation is represented by Samajwadi Party's patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, Bahujan Samajwadi Party chief Mayawati and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the new generation is led by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka. Akhilesh agreed to give 105 out of 403 seats to the Congress in the fond hope of impressing the young generation of UP voters who constitute more than fifty percent.

The joint rally by Rahul and Akhilesh was received very well by the youth. Their joint media conference also was lapped up. But, in an election spread over seven phases and five weeks, it is very difficult to keep the images alive. In the age of smart phones and what's ups, it is important to perpetuate the image by deliberate action. Had Priyanka Gandhi entered the campaign in the third phase by addressing a rally at Lucknow along with Dimple Yadav, Bijnore MO and Akhilesh Yadav's wife, it would have gone down well and the image of youth force would have been reinforced. By refusing to field Priyanka and confining her to the family pockets of Amethi and Raebareily, the Congress is committing both suicide and homicide.

The party leadership may prefer to keep the trump card, Priyanka, for the final battle in 2019. But if they cannot get majority of the 105 seats allotted to them and help Akhilesh to retain power, he will not be in a position to help the Congress in the next Lok Sabha elections. He would be great asset to the Congress as Chief Minister of UP. Not realising the importance of the present elections in UP would prove prohibitively costly for the Congress. It is said that the route to Delhi is via Lucknow.

The first two phases may give about 70 out of the 140 seats that were in contention. This assessment is based on the belief that the Muslim community voted overwhelmingly to the SP-Congress coalition in Western UP. But as we go on into the rest of the phases the percentage of Muslims among the voters would be gradually falling. It would be Yadav terrain where the Muslims will be less and EBC (Extremely Backward Classes) would be predominant. The EBCs are solidly with the BJP as they believe Akhilesh Yadav's dispensation is no different from Mulayam Singh Yadav's government as far as 'Yadavisation' of the administration is concrned. The SP-Congress coalition would fall short by five to six percent of votes.

The gap can be filled only by deploying Priyanka and Dimple to campaign aggressively. Unless the mistake is identified and corrected in time, it would be doing immense damage to Akhilesh in 2017 and Rahul in 2019.