Mulayam Singh Yadav has announced that he will campaign for Samajwadi Party and also for Congress.
The desperation to resurrect the party especially in Uttar Pradesh with an eye on Lok Sabha election 2019 through UP poll 2017 has made Congress take some unprecedented decisions. Latest being appointment of 76-year-old former three times Delhi chief minister as UP’s chief ministerial candidate.
Earlier, the party surprised poll observers when they appointed Prashant Kishore aka PK as election strategists. They then followed it with the appointment of Ghulam Nabi Azad as UP in charge. Last but not the least, cine star and Rajya Sabha MP from Uttarakhand Raj Babbar being appointed as UP Congress chief in place of Nirmal Khatri.
Looking at the decisions in the sequel they were taken, it certainly looked that Congress was desperate to resurrect the party fortune in UP politics aiming assembly polls 2017. However, with the cycle of decisions with regards to UP getting completed after Thursday’s announcement to project Sheila Dixit as party’s chief ministerial candidate, the picture now emerging from Congress camp is to test its potential in view of 2019 Lok Sabha poll rather than go all out to win the UP election or even to improve its tally considerably.
Sheila in that case looks to be an escape goat for the Congress. With age certainly not at her side at 76, even the former CM didn’t have much of the problem to willingly put herself at the forefront of the party’s bid to test its potential with an eye on Lok Sabha election.
Since, Sheila had been out of UP politics for around two-and-a-half decade while focusing herself in Delhi politics since 1989, it certainly is not making sense to expect any miracle from Sheila Dixit. Perhaps Congress also is not expecting so.
However, the experiment is very simple strategically. By bringing Ghulam Nabi Azad back to UP scene, the Congress strategists have been able to keep factionalism among the UP satraps at bay as none would have courage to rebel against the decision of Azad, who not only has a bigger stature than any of the state leaders but would act more as a direct emissary of Gandhi family.
Even Congress strategists are not expecting much from the state satraps hence they roped in Raj Babbar, who at least would be able to draw crowds at the programmes he would be holding in the run up to UP election. As of now, no state leader has the ability to be a crowd puller as is the case with Raj Babbar.
This strategy might not still turn the crowd into votes but would certainly create a perception in favour of Congress to a certain extent and might help Congress to improve its tally even though not by a huge number.
Though Sheila Dixit is also not a crowd puller at least in UP, her appointment has also put an end to the ambition of many state Congress leaders. Congress on the one hand will be able to not only put a check on the desires of state leaders, it would be able to save these state leaders for Lok Sabha election as the party then would go all out to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA government.
If Raj Babbar is able to pull crowd consistently at least until November, the Congress strategists might rope in Priyanka Gandhi for future campaigning in UP with an aim to furthering its chances in UP poll.
Even this way, Congress might not reach three digit mark in UP assembly with workers at ground level missing for years now, but slight improvement in the tally would again create a perception in favour of the Congress party which would get new lease of life good enough to give a spirited challenge to Modi-led NDA government in 2019 Lok Sabha election.
Assuming nothing as expected happens for Congress strategists, Sheila at her age and stature has nothing to lose so will not Raj Babbar or for that matter Ghulam Nabi Azad.
However, if Congress performs even slightly better, strategists would have enough arsenal to keep further check on state leaders and resurrect the dwindling fortune of the grand old party of the India in 2019 Lok Sabha election.