Willy-Nilly the elections to the largest state (in terms of number of Lok Sabha/ Assembly seats) Assembly of the country would be dominated by a semi-state entangled with a battle with the Centre- political and otherwise. The Congress decision to project former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit as its chief ministerial candidate in UP has set the stage for this contest.
Ironically, she would be moving to the same ground where she had cut her political teeth under the tutelage of her illustrious father-in-law and a veteran Congressman, Mr Uma Shanker Dikshit decades back. This is another matter that she finally tasted success in the city-state of Delhi where she ruled for 15 years before facing a humiliating defeat, now to be going back to the turf of her political origin in quest of success with odds heavily pitted against her.
Ever since there has been a talk of Congress toying with the idea of sending Mrs Dikshit to UP, the political rivals in BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party have been sharpening their attack against her. This is primarily on allegations of corruption against her related to Commonwealth games and Delhi Jal Board scandals. It is no coincidence that under these emerging circumstances the Anti Corruption Bureau of Delhi Government had registered an FIR against her just few days before announcement of her CM candidature.
Congress, BJP and AAP are currently engaged in a three-way political battle in Delhi. The Congress and BJP are on the same side of the fence while challenging political supremacy of AAP leader and chief minister Mr Arvind Kejriwal whereas Congress also has uphill task of waging this battle against both the formidable rivals in quest for recovering its lost political ground.
In the face of reports suggesting AAP’s upward surge in Punjab which will also face Assembly elections next year alongside UP, Uttrakhand, Goa and Gujarat, it has become a compulsion for both Congress and BJP to try and stop Mr Kejriwal in his tracks and ensure that his political influence does not grow out of Delhi. On the other hand by the same yardstick he has been targeting both the rival political parties particularly Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi, not only to checkmate them but also ensure simultaneous elevation of his political stature out of Delhi.
Mrs Dikshit’s emergence as Congress face in UP, in the backdrop of corruption allegations against her, does provide a handy tool to both Mr Kejriwal and the BJP to hit and corner Congress in the run up to Assembly elections particularly in the politically significant UP. It has assumed greater significance as future political recourse of all the three political parties would hinge on their performance in either Punjab or UP or both.
An electoral victory for AAP in Punjab is directly related to its future as a loss could put spokes in Mr Kejriwal’s ambitions future plans that include making a direct contest with Mr Modi in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In a similar vein Congress victory in the agrarian state would if boost the party’s moral, it will have a demoralising impact on both AAP and BJP.
Coming back to political significance of UP. Both BJP and Congress have big stakes though with different dimensions. For the decimated Congress the stakes and strategies would be aimed at checkmating the BJP with an eye on next general elections. The BJP under Modi-Amit Shah duo is already in a top gear to ensure that the party repeats its Lok Sabha poll performance and forms a Government.
So, there lies the significance of targeting Mrs Dikshit though in their different ways but with a common goal. Targeting her as a symbol of corruption in the backdrop of allegations, would be used as part of BJP’s campaign of a Congress-mukt Bharat. Although AAP would not be a big player in UP but the party could use Dikshit-factor as portrayal of Congress mired in corruption and misgovernance.
Knowing fully-well that it would be difficult to pin-down Mrs Dikshit on the issue of governance which is amply reflected in the changed face of Delhi during her 15-year rule, BJP in particular has plans to exploit the corruption issues against her. This would be to ensure that Congress under her is prevented from either staging either a comeback in UP or securing a sizable number of seats so as to assist any other non-BJP party in forming the government in the event of a hung-Assembly.
On her part the septuagenarian Mrs Dikshit has seized this opportunity to become Congress face in UP in search of revival of her political fortunes after a humiliating defeat in Delhi Assembly elections. Right now it was the only route left for her as emergence of Ajay Maken as a strong Congress leader in Delhi has closed her options in the Capital city and with no surety of a AICC post.
Whatever be the outcome of UP polls for Congress, the significance of being Sheila Dikshit would be strongly reflected in the sharp attacks which both BJP and AAP leaders have already started launching at her. At 78 she is clearly in the twilight of her political career which could get revived if she leads the Congress to an improved performance.
In the ultimate scenario she has nothing to lose at a personal level. Good performance would certainly raise her graph in the Congress and a loss would not any further dent her image which was already at the lowest ebb after Delhi elections.