Politics

UP Election 2017: With Akhilesh-Rahul show, Congress has set 2019 game plan in motion

The takeaways from the joint appearance of Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav yesterday are significant, both in terms of optics and substance. Two dapper young leaders from different parties sharing an easy camaraderie was visually pleasing. They brought freshness and warmth to the table, a welcome relief from the grimness vintage politicians carry in their tired visages almost as a matter of rule. The smiles from both looked genuine and non-toxic. There was a hint of vulnerability in both as they fielded uncomfortable questions from journalists.

But the joint address was much more than optics, and focussed on the immediate challenge: Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. Of course, for Rahul and Akhilesh, the Assembly elections are crucial. Rahul has to revive a shrinking Congress in the politically-important state and gain for it some position of electoral respectability if he has to establish himself as a bankable leader. For Akhilesh, it is a matter of prestige after he staged a coup against his father Mulayam Singh Yadav and seized control of the Samajwadi Party. He has to prove himself as a leader and nothing less than a victory will help.

The takeaways from the joint appearance of Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav yesterday are significant, both in terms of optics and substance. Two dapper young leaders from different parties sharing an easy camaraderie was visually pleasing. They brought freshness and warmth to the table, a welcome relief from the grimness vintage politicians carry in their tired visages almost as a matter of rule. The smiles from both looked genuine and non-toxic. There was a hint of vulnerability in both as they fielded uncomfortable questions from journalists.

But the joint address was much more than optics, and focussed on the immediate challenge: Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. Of course, for Rahul and Akhilesh, the Assembly elections are crucial. Rahul has to revive a shrinking Congress in the politically-important state and gain for it some position of electoral respectability if he has to establish himself as a bankable leader. For Akhilesh, it is a matter of prestige after he staged a coup against his father Mulayam Singh Yadav and seized control of the Samajwadi Party. He has to prove himself as a leader and nothing less than a victory will help.

The other parties are no better placed either.

The Congress’ track record, particularly on corruption, is known to all; Akhilesh’s five years as chief minister have been marked by lawlessness and tardy development. But then the preponderance of Modi in the campaign without strong state-level leadership automatically makes any electoral contest a fight between state parties and the BJP at the Centre.

Opposition parties, particularly the Congress, believe these weaknesses in the BJP are not going to disappear anytime soon. The joint address at Lucknow dropped clear hints that Rahul is aiming for 2019.

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