If the results jolted every Congress adversary, they are an incredible achievement for a party that has been down in the dumps since 1989 when it last held power in UP. The decision to go it alone at the UP hustings has been credited to General Secretary Rahul Gandhi who drew up the plan as part of his strategy to put the party back on the rails in the state.
Political pundits are of the view that the Congress will keep both the BSP and SP out of the UPA in pursuance of the same policy.
While the SP tally came down from its 2004 tally of 36 to 23 Lok Sabha seats, the BJP could not enhance its last tally of 10 Lok Sabha seats.
Though the BSP registered an increase of one seat, taking its present score to 20, it was a major letdown for the ruling party in UP whose leadership had claimed it would win at least 45 seats, thereby giving party supremo Mayawati a shot at the top job in Delhi.
Interestingly, all four Gandhis — Sonia and son Rahul as well as sister-in-law Maneka and son Varun — won. While it was a cakewalk for Sonia and Rahul who were elected by 370,000 plus votes, Maneka scraped through by a slender margin from her new post delimitation constituency, Aonla. Varun, who was perhaps the most controversial candidate this election, won by nearly 274,000 votes.
It would not be an over-estimation to term the Congress victory as an outcome of some kind of wave for the party. Even minor leaders like Zafar Ali Naqvi and Nirmal Khatri won their respective seats in Kheri and Faizabad. “The Faizabad victory was truly significant in terms of a mandate in favour of a secular party and a clean candidate,” state Congress president Rita Bahuguna Joshi remarked.
Joshi gave her rivals in Lucknow a run for their money. Even as she lost to BJP veteran Lalji Tandon by about 30,000 votes, what brought a smile to her face was that her BSP rival Akhilesh Das trailed far behind her. He is alleged to have invested millions of rupees in his campaign that was launched almost 20 months ago, shortly after he switched loyalties from the Congress to the BSP.
Another significant Congress victory was that of India’s former cricket captain Mohammad Azharuddin who defeated his BJP rival Sarvesh Kumar Singh by more than 50,000 votes. Former Union minister Salman Khurshid won the Farrukhabad seat, defeating party hopper and BSP nominee Naresh Agarwal. Salim Sherwani, who joined the Congress after being denied a SP ticket from his bastion Badaun, lost to SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav’s nephew Dharmendra Yadav.
What surprised observers was the last minute defeat of filmstar turned Congress nominee Raj Babbar from Fatehpur-Sikri where he had been leading through the day. Babbar lost to Seema Upadhaya of the BSP whose husband Ramveer Upadhaya is UP’s energy minister.
Equally surprising was the victory of another Bollywood star turned Samajwadi Party nominee Jaya Prada, who despite much opposition from within her party, won by a comfortable 31,000 votes. The defeat of her Congress opponent Begum Noor Bano, who hails from Rampur’s royal family, came at a time when large parts of the state came under a Congress spell.
All three former UP chief ministers — Mulayam Singh Yadav, BJP chief Rajnath Singh and BJP rebel Kalyan Singh — won their respective constituencies, Mainpuri, Ghaziabad and Etah. Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh and his son Jayant Chaudhary registered victories from Baghpat and Mathura respectively. Mulayam Singh’s son Akhilesh Yadav won both the Ferozabad and Kannauj seats.
Other than Maneka and Varun Gandhi, prominent BJP leaders who romped home were former party president Murli Manohar Joshi who defeated unsavoury BSP politician Mukhtar Ansari in Varanasi by 17,000 votes.
But the election proved a Waterloo for BJP rabble-rouser and Ayodhya movement leader Vinay Katiyar, who trailed in the third position in Ambedkar Nagar.
Among the political novices who won on the strength of their Congress affiliation were retired bureaucrat P L Punia (Barabanki) and Anu Tandon (Unnao), whose husband is a senior manager in Mukesh Ambani’s empire.