Varanasi (UP), May 17 : The local residents of Varanasi – parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi – are fond of calling themselves 'Kashi Vasis'.
The simpleton and hospitable people on the face value have enough political acumen. It is in tribute to the political understanding of faceless voters - 'Kashi Vasis' here that the Samajwadi Party candidate Shalini Yadav says – 'BJP is doing a mistake in underestimating the political maturity and wisdom of the Varanasi voters'.
Her husband Arun Yadav gives the example of India’s most maverick politician Raj Narain and says: 'It was Raj Narainji rooted in ground reality of Kashi that he stunned the nation and could defeat Indira Gandhi once.' Speak to local sweet shop owners, weavers and students – everyone seem to understand politics so well. Most fascinating part of it is people’s knowledge on political history and sharp analysis of things – both past and present.
Now, coming to the question what went wrong with the Congress party in Uttar Pradesh and especially eastern UP – which seemingly has ‘solid Congress support’ – the local residential experts say – it would be equally important to review why the Left politics, after making significant influence on north Indian society and politics, ultimately failed.
'A major weakness of the Left in north was its inability to break the caste idiom. The local caste equations were left to so-called socialists, and individualistic approach ultimately produced casteist and self-centric leaders,' says history teacher Lajpat Raj Gupt.
He cited the domination of upper castes especially Brahmins in communist parties in West Bengal and how in Kerala – the CPI(IM) was state’s original 'Hindu party'.
He further says: 'Over the decades prior to Independence and even after, the Left parties, groups and individuals failed to work unitedly. The Left also failed to make a deep of reality, the communists constantly overestimated their support among the people'.
In the case of Congress party – says Gupt – 'My belief has been that there is no Congress party as an organisation in India especially after 1970s.'True, as the battle for the May 19 hustings – last phase of polling - gains momentum, people attribute gradual decline of country’s oldest party to over centralisation or concentration of power in few hands.
'Narendra Modi might be talking about one family. The real problem in Congress does not lay in one family. It is in the politics where for decades – the powers have remained in few select hands. They survive every generation and class of Congress power centre,' says trader Mathura Chaudhary.
This school of thought cites the illustrations of Pranab Mukherjee to AK Antony to Ghulam Nabi Azad who 'survived' in becoming key players under all prime ministers – P V Narasimha Rao, Manmohan Singh and even under Rajiv Gandhi.The same group of people are close to Sonia Gandhi and also Rahul Gandhi...As the same group of people survived, the organisation of the party began to be dominated by the Parliamentary wing, they say.
Agrees Chintan Prasad, a retired land revenue official, who says – 'As power got centralised for decades Prime Minister also automatically became the manager of all intra-party conflicts and trials and tribulations'.Another educationist Pramod Pal – who hails from Varanasi and works in Gorakhpur – says, 'It may sound very unusual today. The Congress image was identified closely with large landlords, musclemen, rich, capitalists and politico-bureaucratic combine.'In this context, he also explains the rise of BJP, especially in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.'By questioning the excessive power of government apparatus and willingness to fight for middle class after 1991 economic doldrums, the Lotus party drew the support of middle class'.
'This was huge,' says Mr Pal, adding – 'BJP finally emerged as a party which worked out an alliance of middle class, pro-Hindutva religious group and in later stage the smaller caste groups left out of Dalit and Yadav hegemony.' The Varanasi residents say while it is always important to woo voters who are 'dissatisfied' with the ruling dispensation – the Congress did a mistake in keeping most senior ministers as members of the Congress Working Committee too.
A similar formula was later repeated in the states as well wherein the party organisation was used by 'rival factions' only to gain control over the government.
'In more ways than one, some of our predictions have come true about Congress. It got itself identified with the government machinery completely, and when the government is lost, the Congress came on the verge of disappearance despite an overwhelming support for the party still remaining on ground,' says Ajay Lal, another old timer in the city.
On the context of communism movement, Mr Lal says: 'The Leftists also fought Congress often on wrong issues and when it came to the crunch, it was either forced to trail behind Congress leadership like under Indira Gandhi. The communists unlike the BJP or right wing politicians failed to show ideological and tactical flexibility.'
Summing up the game pretty well – in the words of retired government official Chintan Prasad – the politics of eastern UP was left much with the influence of musclemen and later either casteists or Hindu fundamentalism.
Like elsewhere, everyone says – the BJP is banking heavily on Prime Minister’s charisma and on the other hand there is an attempt to unite ‘the rest against him’. The voters in Gorakhpur or in Varanasi only lament that the political slugfest has touched new lows this year.
Who will bell the cat? The fact that the Congress leadership is often seen going 'ultra Left' has also not gone down well with the voters and especially some of these low profile intellectuals of Varanasi. (UNI)