Dec 6 pushed Cong into an existential crisis in UP; it is yet to recover from it

Since the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the Congress has been dogged by political oblivion in Uttar Pradesh, for at the time of that tectonic event, it was a Congress government at the Centre, and the then Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, sat on an SoS sent by his party colleagues at that time.

The party could not regain its strength in the state, where it had an almost unchallenged run till 1977. It first got replaced by the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) on the political map and then the BJP emerged as the mascot of Hindutva politics, eating into the traditional upper-caste vote that used to go to the Congress.

Veteran Congressman Salman Khurshid, who was in Rao’s council of ministers, details the change in the political landscape since 1992 in his book, ‘Sunrise Over Ayodhya: Nationhood in Our Times’.

When the first general election post demolition was held in 1996, the Congress was unseated and the first BJP government was formed, albeit for 13 days, but it was Babri Masjid’s rubble that laid the foundation of a strong BJP in the country — and the party continued to the reap the benefits of December 6, 1992.

In his book, Khurshid mentions how Narasimha Rao abruptly ended the meeting of the council of ministers the day after the demolition, pleading, “Please spare me some sympathy”.

The Congress, however, did not get any sympathy from the Muslims in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and the SP captured power. Mulayam Singh, who was at the helm of the party, earned the sobriquet ‘maulana’ from the Ram Mandir supporters, who were kept at bay during his first tenure as the chief minister (1989-91).

It paved the way for SP’s emergence as a strong regional party and it was because of his following among the Muslims in the state that it came back to power three more times subsequently, the last time being from 2012 to 2017. The Congress tried hard, but did not regain the trust of the community.

In response to the demolition, hours after it happened, Narasimha Rao dismissed the Kalyan Singh government and a week later the BJP governments in Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh were also thrown out.

After the dismissals, when the state elections were held in 1993, the BJP emerged as the largest single party in Uttar Pradesh, albeit with fewer seats, and returned to power in Rajasthan.

The Congress was swept to power in Himachal Pradesh and emerged as the alternative to the BJP in MP, where it led the government from 1993 to 2003. Since then, the BJP has been ruling the state, except for a year in 2018. That was when the Congress, which had been voted to power, lost because of defections.

The Congress in Uttar Pradesh continues to be in a pathetic state. It has just one MP (Sonia Gandhi) and two MLAs in the state, which sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha. The Congress now hopes that Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra will help it regain the confidence of the Muslims in states such as Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere as he is talking about harmony and raising issues that concern the common people.

But the real litmus test is on Thursday, December 8, when the results of the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections will be announced, a day after the Municipal Corporation of Delhi poll results are out.

20221206-132006

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