Heartland politics has often determined the perception battle in India. That’s why a three-term chief minister, considered a brand in himself, had to contest from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh to prove his pan-India appeal. Not that anyone doubted Narendra Modi’s popularity in the run-up to the 2014 elections. UP, with its largest share of Lok Sabha seats, has an elevated place in India’s electoral mathematics. Without padding up for a big fight there, it’s difficult to capture the imagination or confidence of the electorate, to convince them of being a serious player.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s decision to prop up sister Priyanka Gandhi, ignoring the dynasty jibe, and another charismatic contemporary, Jyotiraditya Scindia, as AICC general secretaries of eastern and western UP, can be described as a dramatic but risky gamble, open to both positive and negative interpretation. Along with the rejig that was affected on the side, in bringing K C Venugopal as general secretary, organisation, this could be seen as a generational overhaul, even though the latter post is seen that of a rubber stamp. This appears to be an audacious reply to the criticism Rahul faced for having to instal members of the old guard, Kamal Nath in Madhya Pradesh and Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan, despite posting a win in three Hindi heartland states. To show that he’s not only in control of the party, but is ready to use what ammunition he has in his armoury. It’s also an admission that this Lok Sabha election is like no other.
However, amidst all the breathless excitement, and questions of whether this would make UP a three-cornered election, it has to be underlined that this move also belongs to the era of a supreme leader making decisions. Not that of a Congress which had to become a mass movement, an ordinary people’s party, to win independence. This about winning and losing elections!