On February 10, as Congress normal secretary incharge for Uttar Pradesh, Priyanka Gandhi stepped out of Dehradun airport, consideration was abruptly drawn to the rudraksha mala in her hand. While footage of her counting the sacred beads quickly went viral, she was already headed for attending an enormous farmers’ panchayat in neighbouring Saharanpur district of Uttar Pradesh.
And even because the symbolism of a rudraksha-wielding Priyanka was being deliberated upon, hours later she was seen providing prayers on the well-known Maa Shakumbhari Devi temple in Saharanpur. And by the point she had reached the kisan panchayat venue, her plans to go to the holy metropolis of Prayagraj and take a dip at Sangam the subsequent day had additionally been made public.
Clearly, what began because the Congress’s offensive in opposition to the backdrop of the continuing farmers’ protests to repeal the brand new farm legal guidelines has taken an fascinating flip in the politically essential state of Uttar Pradesh. In Priyanka and her celebration’s actions over the previous few days one will get a transparent sense of an rising sample. It is the system of attempting to handle each the caste and the category phenomena, all alongside additionally attempting to counter the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Hindutva narrative by projecting a soft-liberal non secular face of the Gandhi scion.
The query is can this new technique assist the grand previous celebration regain its roots in the state, the place it has been out of energy for greater than 30 years and was lowered to only one Lok Sabha seat out of 80 in the 2019 normal elections.
FARMERS AS A ‘CLASS’- WHAT IT CAN MEAN IN WEST UP
While the Congress as a significant opposition celebration has been extending its assist to the continuing farmers’ agitation from the very starting, it has gone for a really aggressive open intervention in their favour following January 26. A transfer that coincided with the farmers’ protests spreading throughout western UP, the area which all by means of the previous few elections had been a really fertile floor for the BJP.
Before the saffron celebration ensured a powerful maintain because the normal elections of 2014, the politics in these components had been traditionally outlined by the assertive farming neighborhood that has gained prosperity by means of the inexperienced revolution of the Sixties and sturdy caste identities, particularly the backward caste Jat politics. The consequence had been the rise of “kisan sentiments” and regional assertions which later noticed their manifestation in the rise of the likes of former Prime Minister (late) Charan Singh and in normal the politics of anti-Congressism.
Since then and particularly submit the mid-Seventies, following the Emergency, the politics in the area was more and more outlined by the rising caste consciousness of the backward and Dalit Hindus. While the Congress obtained a significant dent being the one nationwide celebration of prominence, the BJP too discovered it troublesome to achieve sturdy roots regardless of throwing all its weight behind the contentious Ram Mandir motion in the eighties and nineties .
The politics of bigger Hindutva consolidation was nonetheless a long way until the bloody Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013, which clearly marked one other main turning level in the politics of the area that can also be set aside by the presence of a powerful Muslim inhabitants.
The deep communal divide created by the riots coupled with rising assertion of the BJP below the management of Narendra Modi was sturdy sufficient to experience above the caste consciousness and break the strategic electoral understandings among the many numerous backward and Dalit Hindu teams and the Muslims that had typically labored in favour of events just like the SP, BSP and RLD.
Since then, from 2014, all by means of the meeting polls of 2017, and then once more in the final elections of 2019, this bigger non secular consolidation has labored nicely for the BJP. It is that this phenomenon of Hindutva consolidation which is now threatened by the continuing “kisan aandolan”. The fanning up of Jat sentiments by the state’s Yogi Adityananth-led authorities making an attempt to behave robust with Bharatiya Kisan Union chief Rakesh Tikait has led to a collection of huge farmer mahapanchayats , that are additionally seeing the participation of Muslim khaps.
Clearly it’s a sign of alarm for the BJP and ray of hope for rivals. That’s the explanation why opposition events have now taken an open plunge in their assist for the farmers. While the likes of Jayant Choudhary of the Jat-based Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) have clearly been lively in the area, the Congress too has jumped in with all its may.
The first glimpses of the brand new technique have been clearly seen when all the important thing opposition leaders together with Priyanka Gandhi reached Rampur to attend an occasion in the reminiscence of a younger Sikh farmer who was killed in the course of the Republic Day violence in Delhi.
Just a couple of days later, on February 10, Priyanka attended an enormous kisan panchayat in Saharanpur. She has additionally participated one in Bijnor. Over the subsequent few days, she is all set to attend different such panchayats in Muzaffarnagar (at this time) and Meerut (February 23) as nicely. No doubt the celebration needs to domesticate new grounds in Uttar Pradesh, using on the sentiment of the brand new ‘class consciousness’ of farmers chopping throughout caste strains.
CEMENTING THE ‘CLASS’ WITH A LIBERAL RELIGIOUS FACE?
Amid the will to faucet into the brand new ‘kisan consciousness’, the Congress most likely additionally needs to counter the BJP’s aggressive Hindutva polarisation by projecting a liberal non secular picture of its chief. From pictures of the rudraksha- wielding Priyanka to these of her providing prayers on the Saharanpur temple, ‘Sangam snan’ the subsequent day, to looking for blessings from Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati, all appear to be aimed toward sending the specified message.
The incontrovertible fact that on February 10, whereas in Saharanpur, she additionally visited a well-known Sufi shrine, was an extra message of her liberal non secular positioning. Clearly for a pacesetter of nationwide stature like her, all these strikes might be seen in the bigger context of politics. The BJP too is anxious by the developments and is preserving an in depth watch.
A really senior chief of the state BJP acknowledges the problem. However, he’s dismissive of the Congress. “Things in western UP have gone in opposition to us, however elections are nonetheless far-off and we now have a powerful organisation to undo the wrongs,” he mentioned.
RIVER GANGA AND THE BACKWARD CASTE NARRATIVE
For political observers, the collection of tweets from Priyanka herself following her ‘Sangam snan’ counsel a vital message not simply in phrases of bigger non secular outreach but in addition addressing the caste dynamics. Priyanka’s tweet thanking her boatman Sanjay Nishad deserves particular consideration.
Like the Jats in western UP, the Nishads represent a significant backward caste in the area of the Ganga-Yamuna doab. Historically engaged in river-dependent occupations like rowing boats, fisheries and manufacturing of vegetable crops, the Nishads together with a number of carefully linked subgroups have seen a big caste assertion over the previous few years.
Unlike the Yadavs among the many OBCs who had strongly been with the SP and Jatavs among the many Dalits with the BSP, the Nishads and different associated disadvantaged subcastes have been fluid in their political decisions. However, of late that they had been with the BJP. It was this caste calculation which the Congress had most likely additionally tried to handle with Priyanka’s Ganga Yatra forward of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
CAN ALL OF IT WORK FOR THE CONGRESS?
In 2019, the efforts had gone in useless, however since then quite a bit of water has flown in the Ganga. Congress leaders say at this time they’ve a relatively stronger organisation in the state and have a devoted UP-centric management of Priyanka Gandhi. The BJP’s politics and the Yogi authorities’s efficiency have created some resentment and have, thus, opened up a window of hope.
Whatever could be their evaluation, elections are nonetheless a yr away. Amid sturdy presence of regional gamers just like the SP and BSP, who nonetheless have an outlined caste consolidation behind them, carving out an unbiased turf will clearly be a Herculean activity for the Congress. And even when it positive aspects energy, the mighty BJP could have the final chuckle with potentialities of a bigger cut up in opposition votes.