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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09NEWDELHI2330 2009-11-18 14:35:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy New Delhi
Cable title:  

MAYAWATI STRONG IN U.P. BY-ELECTIONS, BUT CONGRESS

Tags:   PGOV PINR PREL KDEM IN 
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					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NEW DELHI 002330 

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL KDEM IN
SUBJECT: MAYAWATI STRONG IN U.P. BY-ELECTIONS, BUT CONGRESS
MAKING IN-ROADS



1. (U) Summary. In Uttar Pradesh (U.P.), Chief Minister
Kumari Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) swept the
November 7 by-elections, winning nine out of eleven Assembly
seats and consolidating further its hold of the state
legislature. The by-elections were equally dramatic for the
Samajwadi Party (SP), which failed to win a single seat. The
lone parliamentary seat was the most bitter loss for SP
leader Mulayam Singh Yadav who staked his family pride in
fielding his daughter-in-law, Dimple. Congress Party
candidate and former SP Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament)
member Raj Babbar won the seat by an impressive 85,000 votes,
thanks in large part to the aggressive campaigning of Rahul
Gandhi and voters' resentment of the Yadav political dynasty.
Yadav's son Akhilesh has come out swinging against Gandhi in
the media, calling for a Generation Next battle. Despite his
bravado, most analysts agree that Congress has a good chance
to emerge as the BSP alternative in the 2012 election in
India's most populous state, at the expense of both the SP
and Bharatiya Janata Party. U.P. watchers will keep a close
eye on the on-again off-again Congress-SP relationship to see
if it becomes more tense and frayed over time as the SP feels
increasingly threatened by Rahul Gandhis mission to
reestablish the Congress Party on SP territory. END SUMMARY.

Mayawati Still Dominates


--------------------------





2. (SBU) Although Mayawati avoided the campaign trail during
the November 7 by-elections, her party managed to win nine
out of eleven Assembly seats and to rebound from its
disappointing performance in the spring parliamentary
elections. Analysts credit the BSP's victory with the
party's return to its traditional Dalit vote base after it
tried and failed to woo Brahmin, Muslims, and other groups
during the April-May parliamentary election. In the run-up
to the by-elections, Mayawati made several overtures to Dalit
voters in the form of seat reservations at private
institutions and preference in government contracts. The
strategy paid off as the BSP's share of the vote increased by
three percent. When Mayawati formed her government in May
2007, the BSP had 206 members in the 403-seat state
legislature. Now it has a much more comfortable majority of


227. Contacts warned Poloff not to read too much into the
BSP's victory, given the advantages and power wielded by any
ruling party during by-elections when only a handful of seats
are at stake and ouster of the ruling party is not an option.
Journalist Sanjay Kapoor said that after BSP's embarrassing
showing in the Lok Sabha elections, BSP leaders warned
district leaders that unless the party machinery churned out
a better showing in the by-elections, "they would not have
enough power to charge their cell phones."

But Rahul's Gamble Paid Off


--------------------------





3. (SBU) The Congress Party's victory in the race for the
Firozabad Lok Sabha seat represented another positive step in
Rahul Gandhi's mission to rebuild the party structure in
India's most populous state. Congress candidate Raj Babbar
trounced his SP competitor Dimple Yadav, SP Leader Mulayam
Singh Yadav's daughter-in-law, by 85,000 votes. Congress
contacts disclosed that Sonia Gandhi had preferred to field a
weak candidate in the Firozabad race in deference to sometime
ally Yadav, but her son and Congress Party in-charge for the
state Digvijay Singh were adamant that the Congress Party
should pull out all the stops in U.P. Many commentators
credit the victory in Yadav's traditional stronghold to
Gandhi's personal interest in the race. Contacts told Poloff
that Gandhi's fresh face and air of transparency contrast
sharply with Mayawati's hysterics and Yadav's cronyism.
However, they warn that Gandhi must make substantial progress
in mobilizing grass roots support for the Congress Party
ahead of the 2012 state assembly polls. Journalist Sanjay
Kapoor opined that Gandhi should consider what his party can
offer Dalit voters. While Mayawati is a coarser politician,
she has successfully delivered empowerment measures to some
Dalits through government appointments and English education
programs in schools that cater primarily to Dalits. Kapoor
recommended that the Congress Party highlight the BSP's
rampant corruption to chip away at Mayawati's voter base.


NEW DELHI 00002330 002 OF 002




4. (SBU) Congress Rajya Sabha MP Rashid Alvi admitted that
Rahul Gandhi "always attracts a huge crowd," but told Poloff
the Congress Party had also benefited from anti-SP
sentiments, stemming from voters resentment of the
increasingly dynastic politics of the Yadav clan. Today,
Yadav's son, brothers, and nephew are all legislators either
in the state or in the parliament. Voters apparently decided
to draw the line at his daughter-in-law in this election.
Overall, Congress's share of the voters increased by 13
percent, largely at the expense of the Bharatiya Janata Party
(BJP), which was the biggest loser of the by-elections.

SP's Shame


--------------------------





5. (SBU) Yadav took his party's defeat -- especially in
Firozabad -- as a personal humiliation as it signals a
significant erosion of his support base in U.P. Congress
Party contacts confirmed that Yadav has expressed his dismay
that Congress had fielded a candidate against his
daughter-in-law, not to mention a strong candidate like
former Bollywood star Babbar. Yadav felt entitled to this
political courtesy given that SP had refrained from putting
forth a candidate for the parliamentary elections in the
districts of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. Congress MP Alvi told
Poloff that the SP had also made a serious blunder when it
embraced former BJP Chief Minister Kalyan Singh. Muslims
blame Kalywan Singh, who was the Chief Minister of UP during
the destruction of the Babri Masjid (mosque) in 1992, for his
part in its destruction. Realizing that Yadav was a "fraud,"
Alvi observed that many Muslim voters returned to the
Congress Party. Blaming Kalyan Singh for keeping away the
Muslim vote in Firozabad, on November 16 Yadav broke his
party's ties with Singh.



6. (SBU) A wounded Yadav could cause some discomfort for the
Congress Party. Some analysts have speculated that out of
spite Yadav could withdraw the support in Delhi that his
party has extended from outside of the Congress-led United
Progressive Alliance (UPA). A weaker UPA could perhaps open
the door for others -- namely Mayawati -- to create trouble
for the Congress Party, as the BSP's similar outside support
would assume greater value for the central government.
Despite the bad blood, these analysts predict that Yadav will
likely stay put for the moment to prevent his main political
rival playing an influential role in both Lucknow and Delhi.
Contacts note that the SP may also prefer to avoid conflict
while the Central Bureau of Investigation continues inquiries
into corruption charges against Yadav and his chief
lieutenant, the ailing Amar Singh.

Showdown: "Generation Next"


--------------------------





7. (SBU) In the wake of his wife's defeat, SP State President
and party heir apparent Akhilesh Singh Yadav publicly
challenged Rahul Gandhi to a political showdown in an odd
attempt to spin a humbling defeat into a victory. The
Congress Party dismissed the SP's proposed Rahul-Akhilesh
showdown, noting the latter is "too small." Other contacts
saw this as the SP's way of trying to rally the SP cadres
after its wipeout. Continuing with his lashing out,
Akhilesh commented, "if the charisma of Rahul Gandhi was so
captivating for the youth and the masses, why did the
Congress lose its sitting Assembly seats of Jhansi and
Padrouna and the other eight Assembly seats?" He also took
shots at Babbar's age, criticizing Rahul for claiming to
represent the youth vote while fielding an "old man."

Comment


--------------------------





8. (SBU) While the by-elections will not have any effect on
the central government at this time, shifting political
alliances in U.P. have national consequences. We do not
foresee the SP confronting the UPA in Delhi, but the
Congress-SP relationship could become more tense over time as
the SP feels increasingly threatened by Rahul Gandhi's
mission to reestablish the Congress Party on its own
territory. END COMMENT,
ROEMER