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Political Line | Congress tries gender politics in U.P.

(The Political Line newsletter is India’s political landscape explained every week by Varghese K. George, senior editor at The Hindu. You can subscribe here to get the newsletter in your inbox every Friday.)

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is trying to prove her political mettle in Uttar Pradesh, and some of her moves appear to be creating ripples. After her high profile visit to families of farmers run over by a car in the convoy of Ashish Mishra, son of BJP leader and Union Minister Ajay Kumar Mishra, in Lakhimpur Kheri, Ms. Gandhi-Vadra has announced that the Congress would reserve 40% of the tickets in the forthcoming Assembly elections to women. It is not that the party is anywhere near being a serious contender in U.P., but its experiments with identity politics is always curious. By advancing a politics around women, Ms. Gandhi Vadra said, the Congress wanted to pull the country out from “politics of casteism and religion”.

“If it is a crime to take pictures with me, then I should also be punished as it does not suit the government to spoil the career of these hardworking and loyal policewomen,” Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said.

“If it is a crime to take pictures with me, then I should also be punished as it does not suit the government to spoil the career of these hardworking and loyal policewomen,” Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said.   | Photo Credit: PTI

The U.P. announcement is only the beginning, Rahul Gandhi said

The erosion of the Congress dominance in Indian politics is linked to the rise of caste and religion-based mobilisations since the early 1990s. The party has tried to respond to the situation by allying with caste based parties at times, and questioning the very logic of caste politics. The UPA-1 was a coalition of various caste formations, but the UPA-2, which had the Congress increasing its parliamentary strength, sought to undermine caste politics. It tried to push women’s reservation, and build an aspirational politics around youth mobilisation. This strategy had little success, as the unravelling of the UPA experiment showed.  

The Congress is still struggling to craft a smart response to caste and religious mobilisation. While it promises 40% tickets for women in U.P. on the one hand, on the other, the Congress’s Punjab strategy involves projecting the Dalit identity of its new Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi. The party has inherent hesitancy in emphasising identity politics, and due to various pulls and pressures within the tent, it ends up diluting its own claims. It remains to be seen how much will it mobilise around Dalit identity in Punjab or gender politics in U.P.  

The mainstream of U.P. politics meanwhile, continue to revolve around caste and religion. The Samajwadi Party is trying to shake off its Yadav image and reach out to various other caste groups on a social justice plank. 

The BJP is trying to create a coalition of all castes, on the basis of Hindutva.

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2021 5:05:32 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/congress-tries-gender-politics-in-up/article37137002.ece

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