Led by Priyanka, the UP Congress put the SP and BSP to shame when it questioned Adityanath about the crumbling law and order situation in the State and the plight of migrant labourers
Priyanka has stolen the thunder from Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati,” a Samajwadi Party (SP) lawmaker said on telephone. “Everyone is now talking about the Congress Party and Priyanka. Today, the Muslims are more inclined towards the Congress than the Samajwadi Party,” he said.
The lawmaker, who was a Minister during the Akhilesh Yadav regime, was reacting to the political developments in Uttar Pradesh (UP), including the proactive stand taken by Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in politics. There were unofficial reports doing the rounds that Priyanka might shift her base to Lucknow from Delhi and people were raving about how she had picked up the gauntlet thrown by Chief Minister (CM) Yogi Adityanath on the law and order issue in the State.
Recent developments have changed the political spectrum of UP. Particularly after a highly politically-connected ganglord killed eight policemen in a village in Kanpur. The incident raised a big question mark on Adityanath’s much-publicised encounters to eliminate local mafia and ganglords. He had even claimed that criminals would be sent to jail or to the house of Yamraj (the Hindu deity of death and justice) if they raise their heads. Despite such major claims by the CM, Vikas Dubey not only survived but also flourished.
Congress leaders were the first to question the UP Government on the issue of law and order. Numerically, the Congress is as small a party as the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party in the UP State Assembly, with just five lawmakers. But, led by Priyanka, the Congress put big parties like the SP and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) to shame when it questioned Yogi Adityanath time and again about the crumbling law and order situation in the State and the plight of migrant labourers, who are being denied work under different Government schemes.
The three parties — the Congress, SP and BSP — enjoy a strange relationship. In the past, they had entered into alliances with one another on many occasions. During the last Assembly election in 2017 the Congress and the SP contested together with the tagline “Do ladke (two boys)” while the SP forged an alliance with the BSP in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Despite having a working relationship with each other, the three parties have failed to come together post-Covid-19. Last month when Congress national president Sonia Gandhi called an all-party meeting to chalk out a strategy against the Narendra Modi Government, both Akhilesh and Mayawati preferred to give it a skip.
No explanation was given about missing the meeting and it raised many eyebrows. The question asked was whether it was a political compulsion or a backdoor manoeuvre by the BJP which kept the SP and the BSP away from the meeting? One SP legislator was quoted as saying,“The SP would not go with Sonia because the Congress put up missing Member of Parliament (MP) posters in Azamgarh”, Akhilesh Yadav’s parliamentary constituency.
The developments show that there’s more to this than meets the eye. Sample this: BSP supremo Mayawati was caustic against the Congress when Priyanka offered 1,000 buses to the UP Government to ferry migrant workers to their native places. Her statements reflected the words of BJP leaders. She attacked the Congress for not taking care of migrant workers in its own States — a replication of statements by BJP spokespersons. Priyanka retorted that some political parties were acting as spokespersons of the BJP — an obvious reference to Mayawati. With the rise in Priyanka’s stature, Mayawati feels insecure. She had been the only major woman leader in UP for a quarter of a century. But now she is being challenged by Priyanka. Second, the BSP and the Congress’ vote banks overlap. Dalits and Muslims helped the BSP score 10 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, up from zero in 2014. The Congress hopes to dent these votebanks, which earlier supported it.
Ditto is the case with Akhilesh Yadav. There is a fear in his mind that the Congress’ rise and the popularity of Priyanka among the masses may lead to the downfall of the SP. Of late, he has started virtual meetings with party workers in an attempt to set his house in order. The SP also hit the streets last week on the issue of rise in prices of petrol and diesel, just to keep his party workers involved.
There is a belief in political circles that the BJP wants the emergence of the Congress in the State so that there is trifurcation in the Opposition. This will come in handy during the elections because the BJP is comfortable when it is pitted against a divided house.
An advocate in the Supreme Court Vishwanath Chaturvedi says the Modi Government is using the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to put a leash on the SP and Mayawati. “Do not forget, both Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav and his family are facing CBI enquiries. The CBI is sitting tight on the probes and one signal from Amit Shah could prove detrimental for both these leaders,” he says. SP patriarch Mulayam and his family are facing a Disproportionate Assets (DA) case. The Supreme Court (SC) had ordered a CBI inquiry on March 1, 2007 into the alleged accumulation of DAs by the Yadav family, on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Vishwanath Chaturvedi. The agency filed a status report in 2007 alleging that the Yadavs had Rs 2.63 crore worth of assets which were disproportionate to their declared sources of income, between 1993 and 2005. Of this nearly Rs 1.4 crore is in the name of Akhilesh Yadav’s wife Dimple.
Chaturvedi claims that the CBI had filed a false report in the SC, that it had submitted a final report to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). But when a Right to Information (RTI) application was filed, the CVC said that no final report was submitted to it. As per Chaturvedi, the case against Mulayam and his family is still alive and the CBI is delaying the legal process for obvious reasons.
Same is the case with Mayawati. The CBI had launched a probe into alleged irregularities in the sale of 21 State-owned sugar mills under the Mayawati-led BSP Government in 2010-11. According to a report released by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), the exercise caused a loss of Rs 1,179 crore to the State. On April 27, 2019, the CBI filed a case against Mayawati. Yogi Adityanath had on April 12 recommended a CBI probe following the CAG’s disclosure.
Political observers say that it seems like the SP and the BSP are dancing to the tune of the BJP. Till now, the CBI has not moved an inch in Mayawati’s case while in Mulayam’s case, too, the federal Intelligence agency is yet to submit an application in the apex court. If both Mulayam and Mayawati refuse to dance to the BJP’s tune, the Prime Minister will unleash the CBI against them. In the last one year, Priyanka has tried to make the fight one-on-one in UP, which has made Yogi Adityanath nervous.
In July 2019, she staged a protest at Chunar Fort when she went to meet the victims of the July 17 massacre in which 10 tribals were shot dead by the Gram Pradhan (village head) and his cohorts in a village in Sonbhadra over a land deal. Priyanka stayed put in Chunar Fort, forcing the administration to bring the family members of the victims there and let them meet her.
The attack on the BJP was so fierce that the Yogi Government pulled out all records to show that the land deal was carried out during the Congress’ rule. However, the BJP could not shirk responsibility for the murders of the 10 tribals. Extensive damage was done to the image of the UP Government by this incident.
Priyanka again visited UP — this time in February when the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) agitation was at its peak. She met the anti-CAA protesters in Bijnor and Azamgarh — the parliamentary constituency of Akhilesh — and also visited the residence of former IPS officer SR Darapuri, who was arrested during an anti-CAA protest in Lucknow.
In Bijnor she thundered, “Kisi ko Bhartiyata ka pramaan maangne ki ijazat nahi hai (no one has the right to ask for proof of Indianness).” While in Azamgarh, she held a roadshow, driving home the point that people living in India are Indians and they do not need to prove that by showing documents.
Bijnor is considered the citadel of the BSP. Mayawati had won the Lok Sabha election for the first time in 1989 from Bijnor, while in seven Assembly seats the BSP had always maintained an upper hand. In 2019, the BSP won the Lok Sabha seat in Bijnor, too. So, it was a masterstroke by Priyanka to hold rallies and meetings in Bijnor and Azamgarh, both, challenging the SP and BSP leaders on their turf. Thus, the rise of Priyanka has pushed both the SP and the BSP towards the BJP. They would prefer to dance to Modi’s tune rather than strengthening Opposition unity.
(Writer: Biswajeet Banerjee; Courtesy: The Pioneer)