Congress's decision to plant Sheila Dikshit as the CM candidate in the upcoming UP elections have taken many by surprise. After the Delhi assembly elections debacle, it was clear that people did not want the Septuagenarian anymore, especially after the corruption charges that her government was facing.
In such a scenario, isn't Congress risking its stand in UP, especially when the Modi wave hasn't died down and Smriti Irani may still throb back to life with her oratory skills.
The Dikshit that she was
Sheila Dikshit was the new Congress face in Delhi in 1998, when she was pitched against her heavyweight BJP opponent-Sushma Swaraj. And the best part is, she dislodged her and retained the chief ministrial chair for the next 15 years before falling to her perils. It is to be noted that she had already lost a UP election in 1989.
Probably, Congress sees the sequence of events as a lucky charm because that is what it needs now to be back on track. However, it does not fit our calculations when we remember that Priyanka Gandhi has been hesitant to heed the request of the party members to be the CM candidate in UP. So, is Sheila Dikshit just a pawn on the chessboard?
On second thoughts, this seems to be a very silly decision, especially when Sheila Dikshit has not been as connected to the place as Priyanka Gandhi. Moreover, after her diabolical loss at the Delhi Assembly elections in 2013, how can the Congress party expect the people to accept an rejected leader?
The idea is....
Sheila Dikshit is more like a pawn in the political chessboard of UP, who would be protecting the most important entity of the Congress-Priyanka Gandhi. According to the plan chalked out by the Congress party, Dikshit is the face of Brahmin-Muslim-Dalit-Kurmi rainbow coalition that the party is trying to put together in the state. And Priyanka will sell it to the people in a massive campaign.
Being the face of the Congress campaign, she will be addressing election meetings in around 120 constituencies and is expected to launch the Congress campaign at a rally in either Lucknow or Allahabad in the second week of August.
But why Dikshit
While it is clear that Priyanka Gandhi is the star campaigner, political enthusiasts mull why Dikshit has been chosen as a counter on the board. To keep it simple, Congress has no one else who has a bearing in the people's minds and with whom the people can relate to. In fact, Congress has tried placing other leaders in the past but has failed. So, leaders whose names and faces were familiar to the people were recommended.
Strategy based on caste system in UP
The contesting parties seem to have divided the state according to their target voters. For instance, BJP is culling the Rajput-Bania-Dalit-Kurmi alliance, Samajwadi Party lures the Muslam-Yadav combination and Mayawati ropes in Dalits and the lower castes. So, Congress is left with the Brahmins.
In 2012, Congress received just 12% votes. Now, with the present strategy in place, it is expecting to rope in 10% more if the Brahmin population voted. Strategists believe that if the Brahmins come in, the minority too would be looking at the party as an option. The party also plans to strike an alliance with Ajit Singh and use Nitish Kumar's influence on Kurmi voters.
Congress party's targets in the elections trail is acquiring 6-70 seats in a hung assembly. This will help the party to be in a position to strike an alliance with the BSP and stay afloat till the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Sheila Dikshit's link to the Brahmin population
UP politics thrives on the caste system and Congress's strategy this time proves the same. Sheila Dikshit is the daughter-in-law of prominent Congress leader from UP Uma Shankar Dikshit. The latter was a Brahmin face and had served as a Union Minister and governor for a long time. Recently, Sheila Dikshit met the party leaders and said that she was ready to take up any role in UP as its daughter-in-law.
The brahmin community has been a traditional vote bank for the Congress for years, but had shifted their interest to the BJP and the BSP after the Mantri-Mandal politics and free tickets for the community offered by Mayawati respectively. The Congress now believes that the community should be brought back under the party wings as its support determines the poll outcome in several seats in central and eastern UP.