Rahul scales down Cong hopes in UP

Polling more votes will be a success

Rahul scales down Cong hopes in UP

Projected as the face of the party in the Uttar Pradesh (UP) elections, the Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi hopes that a doubling of vote percentage from the 2007 assembly poll would be “a success” for him and his hard and focussed campaign in the state. 

In an interaction with a select group of editors, the Gandhi scion recalled that the Congress secured around 8 per cent of the total votes in the 2007 assembly elections in UP and he would consider the outcome of election as a “success” if the Congress vote base increased to 16 per cent.

Projected as prime minister-in-waiting, Gandhi has for many years made UP a laboratory of his political experiments in the hope that the Congress would win back its political bastion that was long lost to regional parties like the Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party.

He is the main face of the Congress, with other central or state leaders dwarfed by his presence in the electioneering that was also fully supported by his mother Sonia Gandhi, sister Priyanka and her husband Robert Vadra.

The Congress general secretary, who spoke with the senior editors on Saturday, was quick to add that in UP a large number of seats could be won only when a political party “gets 20 per cent of the vote base.”

Gandhi’s cautious projection of the possible outcome of the poll reflects his party’s uncertainty over the election results, given the polarisation of votes on caste and religious lines.  

The young Congress leader indicated that he was ready for a long haul and would not expect any dramatic change in the ground situation in the state. Gandhi said he is looking forward to a “8-10 year time-frame” within which he would rebuild the party in UP.

The comment is being read as tactical defence in the eventuality of  the elections, which he singularly steered, fail to yield positive results for the Congress party. The meeting with the editors here is being interpreted by political analysts as an anticipatory damage control before the results are out on March 6.

Gandhi fielded wide-ranging questions that included his prime ministerial candidature.
 Queries also focused on the sustained presence of  his mother, sister and brother-in-law and their and their children — Raihan and Miraya — in the pocketboroughs of the Gandhi family and elsewhere in the state.

The battle for votes in Uttar Pradesh has been touted by Opposition parties as the litmus test for the popularity of Gandhi, who with his now-on-now-off stubble had campaigned in the state and sought to build the party that lost its “magic touch” with dalit-upper caste and minorities.

The Bharatiya Janata Party  has been specifically targeting Gandhi, questioning his leadership qualities and political acumen.

The Congress party did exceedingly well in the 2009 general election winning 22 seats, a stunning revival compared to two years earlier when the party could get only 22 seats out of 403 in the Assembly.

Downslide

But since last Lok Sabha elections, the popularity of the Congress in the state has witnessed an apparent slide.

In that backdrop, the Gandhi family has taken a calculated risk in placing Rahul in the vanguard of the Congress campaign in an election that may or may not produce the expected 50-55 seats for the Congress party.

Party managers have already activated the safety clause, arguing that one elections does not decide politics or the political career of their leaders.

An adverse report card in Uttar Pradesh may prove to be setback to Congress president’s son who is being groomed to take over from the incumbent Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

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