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Mainstream, VOL LV No 11 New Delhi March 4, 2017

Why the SP-Congress Alliance is Attractive for the Non-Committed Voter

Sunday 5 March 2017, by Bharat Dogra

With the newly-formed SP-Congress alliance making waves in the Uttar Pradesh elections, it is natural for most members and supporters of these two political parties to feel upbeat about the prospects of this alliance. This article, however, is not about them or their taken-for-granted support. Instead this article is about the largely non-committed voters and why they too may be increasingly attracted towards this new alliance.

Let me start by analysing my own thinking, although I am not a voter of Uttar Pradesh, only a commentator on current affairs. I have not been a supporter of either the Congress Party or the Samajwadi Party. Instead I have generally been quite critical of the Congree-led UPA Government in Delhi and the previous Samaj-wadi Party Government in Uttar Pradesh. I am not convinced by the exaggerated claims made by these two political parties regarding the performances of their governments. Both of these regimes did not have proper policies in place. Their implementation record was poor and corruption levels were high.

Despite all this I feel that in the ongoing elections of Uttar Pradesh the SP-Congress alliance should be supported. Of course the best choice for any voter would still be a genuinely socialist party or even an independent candidate of outstanding integrity and ability who shares socialist thinking. However, such alternatives are not really available; but what are available are alternatives with at least some chances of winning. And in this context the SP-Congress alliance increasingly appears to be the best available option for non-committed voters.

This needs to be explained at two levels. First, there is an increasing need to defeat the BJP. Secondly, in terms of defeating the BJP it needs to be explained why the SP-Congress alliance is now a better choice than the BSP.

National unity and communal harmony are very important issues in today’s India. It is very important to protect the basic ‘idea that is India’ in terms of the people of various religions and cultures living together in harmony and with equal rights. This issue has become very important in the Uttar Pradesh elections because of the overall importance of this State in terms of its population of various communities and the special importance of this State in terms of protecting communal harmony in India.

Then there is the additional fact that communal polarisation and violence were instigated here in recent times by some BJP leaders and their allies. Some areas like Muzaffarnagar in Western UP and Gorakhpur in Eastern UP have become flash-points for such instigator-actions and some powerful BJP leaders here have indulged in very inflammatory statements and actions without being restrained by the party’s central leadership in any effective way. Instead, some of them appear to have been rewarded and have become more powerful than before. It is in this backdrop, clearly in the larger national interest and more specifically in the interests of peace and harmony, checking the advance of such forces becomes imperative and these elections provide the voters an opportunity to do so.

Secondly, the record of the BJP in terms of economic policies and governance has also been very worrying. Several misplaced policies culminated ultimately in the highly disruptive demonetisation decision which is evidence of a highly distorted thinking on basic issues as well as poor governance. There is no humility even in the middle of serious mistakes and their highly disruptive impact on the common people and their livelihood. Instead, there is growing arrogance and a huge publicity offensive to pass even failures as successes. It is important to check all this and the voters have a chance in these elections to do so.

The second part of the question is: if the non-committal voters reject the BJP, then whom else should they vote for? Leaving aside the odd constituency where a better alternative may be available in the form of an exceptionally capable independent or a candidate of high integrity of a Left party with at least some chance of actually winning, in the overwhelming majority of seats the alternative has to be chosen between the BSP and the SP-Congress alliance.

In earlier years I for one would have chosen the BSP over the SP because of the simple reason that the emergence of political power of the Dalits should be encouraged, but this year there are reasons for making a different choice. First, BSP supremo Mayawati has lost several hard-working grassroots leaders of her party by not being just and fair towards them. Instead of building the party on the strength of such grassroots leaders and activists, this party in its functioning became increasingly captive to money-power.

On the other hand, there are some reasons to hope that Akhilesh Yadav, having broken out of the stranglehold of some seniors, will now take more effective steps to keep away criminal elements from his party. In fact the new alliance, symbolised by the relatively youthful leadership of Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi, has given the hope of a new beginning based on reduction of arrogance and criminalisation on the one hand, and better adherence to constitutional principles of secularism on the other. It is with such hopes that the non-committal voters are likely to be attracted towards the SP-Congress alliance.

The author is a freelance journalist who has been involved with several social movements and initiatives.