Lucknow: Last month, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said the party had an “open mind” with respect to an alliance for the 2022 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. When she visited two Samajwadi Party (SP) women workers who were allegedly assaulted during this year’s block pramukh election, it was seen as an indication of the Congress’ desire to give their alliance another shot after the 2017 debacle.
However, a promotional booklet prepared by the Uttar Pradesh Congress in the run-up to the assembly elections suggests the party seems to have no intention of an alliance.
The 24-page booklet, meant for distribution in every block and at campaign training sessions, seeks to tear into what it describes as the corruption, poor governance and “one-caste-one-family” dominance that marked the SP’s tenure in Uttar Pradesh.
Guns have also been trained on the ruling BJP, especially with respect to the Covid crisis, and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) of former chief minister Mayawati. All three parties have been portrayed as thieves, with caricatures of their leaders to boot.
“After this booklet, it is clear the party has lost its hope about forming an alliance with the SP or the BSP,” a senior UP Congress leader told ThePrint. “Now we have to attack all three parties equally, at least this booklet signifies that. I guess things did not work out regarding alliance possibilities.”
The SP, the leader noted, did not attend the Opposition meeting convened by Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi last week.
“So, we are only left with the option of ‘Ekla Chalo (Bengali for going it alone)’. It is somehow both good and bad for us. Now, many of our local leaders who were denied tickets in the 2017 elections will at least get tickets,” he said.
The Congress and the SP contested the 2017 UP assembly elections in alliance, with the former nominating 105 candidates and the latter, 298. The Congress won 7 seats, whereas the SP got 47. The BJP won with a landslide, securing 312 of the state’s 403 seats. The Congress has not been in office in the state since 1989.
Reached for comment, UP Congress chief Ajay Lallu said these booklets “are to be distributed in the training programmes we are doing in districts”, referring to ‘Prasikshan se Parakram (training to courage)’, a special 12-day training programme organised by the party for booth-level workers that started Monday in several districts of UP.
“It is true that, for the last 32 years, UP has suffered from bad governance and corruption… during the tenure of these three parties. We will raise these issues in public and attack all three parties — BJP, SP & BSP,” Lallu added.
On the question of alliance, he said, “As of now, we have an alliance with ‘janta (public)’. They have seen that the Congress is the only Opposition party that has raised their voice in the last four years in the state without any fear.”
‘Chor-chor mausere bhai’
The booklet, a copy of which has been accessed by ThePrint, is divided into nine chapters and is titled “Kisne Bigada Uttar Pradesh (who has spoilt UP’s lot)”. The cover page boasts of caricatures of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, SP leader Akhilesh Yadav, and Mayawati, who are shown blaming each other for the condition of Uttar Pradesh.
More caricatures on the third page seek to convey that the BJP, the SP and the BSP are all thieves. Written below is the Hindi phrase “Chor-chor mausere bhai”, which aims to emphasise shared goodwill among thieves.
“Sabne pradesh ko loota, mil baat ke khaai malaai (all have robbed the state and shared the spoils),” reads a subsequent line.
The chapter dedicated to the SP is titled “SP ka kushasan: Kunbabad, Jungleraj, Jatiwad & Bhrashtachar (SP misrule: nepotism, lawlessness, casteism, corruption)”.
“Here, ‘kunbabad’ stands for parivarvad (dynasty),” said a Congress source. “It’s an attack on the Yadav family. This chapter also refers to the dominance of one caste, Yadavs, during Akhilesh and Mulayam’s regimes. How they were preferred for several government posts, especially those of district magistrate and senior superintendent of police, transfers, and jobs in the police department,” the source added.
Allegations of corruption follow — those against Akhilesh Yadav’s government (expressway, river front project & mining projects) as well as against his uncle Shivpal Yadav (in posting & transfers). The booklet claims more than 700 riots took place during the SP’s tenure.
“Before announcing the alliance for the 2017 assembly polls, the Congress gave a slogan of ‘27 saal UP behaal (UP in a bad state for 27 years)’ in 2016. In this booklet, we have changed it to 32 years,” a Congress functionary said of the booklet.
An SP functionary who didn’t wish to be named said the party wasn’t keen on “taking the risk” of another tie-up with the Congress.
“Our experiences with alliance — with the Congress in the assembly polls & the BSP in the Lok Sabha polls — were bad. So, we do not want to take a risk this time,” the functionary added.
“We have a good understanding with the RLD because they have a strong hold in western UP. So, we are forming an alliance with them and some smaller parties like Mahan Dal, but not the Congress.”
The Congress, the SP functionary said, “does not have hold on any specific vote bank in the state”. “If the Congress goes solo in the election, it will be beneficial for us on several seats where they can damage the BJP’s upper caste votes,” he added.
Sections on BJP, BSP
The first seven chapters of the booklet are dedicated to criticising the rule of the Yogi Adityanath government — on Covid, crime, jobs, inflation and economy. Photographs of dead bodies on the banks of Ganga — Covid patients believed to have been thrown into the river during the second wave, in the absence of funeral space or money — also find their way into the booklet.
The chapter on the BSP is the last, titled “BSP ka Kushasan: Mayawati, Dalit nahi Daulat ki beti (BSP misrule: Mayawati is the daughter of wealth, not Dalit)”, a jibe at her characterisation of herself as a “Dalit’s daughter”.
The chapter claims Mayawati sells election tickets, and also refers to the alleged scams that took place under her rule (NRHM, sugar mill). Among other things, her party is accused of acting as the BJP’s ‘sahayak’ or B-team.
Several party functionaries said the Congress has plans to distribute these booklets in every block of the state, and at the ‘Prasikshan se Parakram’ sessions.
“A total of 700 training camps will be organised during this campaign, where training will be done at the booth level,” Lallu said. “The party has been focussing on this only. In these camps, we teach about ideology, countering the BJP’s narrative on social media, and booth management. Several experts from other states will visit UP to train workers.”
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)