Assembly elections

Will they, won't they? 15 seats could be standing in the way of a Congress-Samajwadi Party alliance

The insistence by Congress for seats that the ruling dispensation had won in the 2012 Assembly elections has become a sticking point.

If there is one thing that has stalled the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance in Uttar Pradesh, strong indications of which had been going on for months, it is this: the grand old party’s insistence on contesting from 15-odd seats that the ruling dispensation had won in the 2012 Assembly elections in the state.

The seats are part of 31 Assembly constituencies in which the Congress had come second in that election. While 15 had gone to the Samajwadi Party, the others are with the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. Sources in the Samajwadi Party, however, said it would not be possible for the party to give up its claim on all its 15 seats that the Congress is adamant on.

As a concession, the party has indicated that it is ready to give up its claim over some other Assembly seats that it holds, especially those that fall in the Congress strongholds of Rae Bareli, President Sonia Gandhi’s Lok Sabha constituency, and Amethi, of which Vice President Rahul Gandhi is the MP.

Deadlock over seats

In 2012, the Congress had won in two of the five Assembly segments under the Amethi Lok Sabha seat – Tiloi and Jagdishpur – and was runner up in Salon, Gauriganj and Amethi (assembly seat), which went to the Samajwadi Party.

It fared even worse Rae Bareli, where the party had lost all five Assembly seats, finishing third in all segments barring Harchandpur, where its candidate came second. The Samajwadi Party won four of the five seats.

There have been back-of-the-envelope talks between the two parties about stitching up a secular alliance for next year’s polls, to posit a strong alternative to the BJP and Mayawati’s BSP. Murmurs of a probably tie up have been growing in recent months, with Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav also hinting at it. But the deadlock over seat-sharing has cast a shadow over the possibility of the alliance.

“We are ready to discuss those Assembly seats of Amethi and Rae Bareli where Congress had come number two,” a senior Samajwadi Party leader said. “But giving up as many as 15 sitting seats to the Congress is almost impossible. Both parties will have to be flexible so that a secular alliance can emerge in the state.”

In all, the Congress is looking to contest in 100 seats – out of the 404 in the state – in the polls next year if it allies with the Samajwadi Party. The party is said to be adamant that this list include the 31 seats in which it came second in 2012, along with the 28 it won that year. The Samajwadi Party had won the 2012 polls with 224 out of 403 seats.

Outlook bleak?

Uttar Pradesh was once a Congress bastion, but the grand old party has not held power in the state since 1989. Since 2002, the state has alternated between the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party.

However, the Samajwadi Party is facing strong anti-incumbency and the very public family feud between Akhilesh Yadav and uncle Shivpal Yadav, which divided the party into two camps, has dented their image. The Congress believes that its role would be crucial for Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, as it could pull in the Muslim vote. Muslims and Yadavs usually support the Samajwadi Party, while Mayawati is eyeing a Muslim-Dalit combination of votes to propel her to victory. An alliance, many leaders feel, is thus the Congress’ only real chance at coming to power in the state.

With seat-sharing proving to be a major obstacle that could possibly derail the alliance, Congress leaders are now doing what they had avoided so far – publicly denying talks of a tie-up between the two parties.

This is perhaps what led Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh to tell party workers in Meerut on Saturday, “We are not planning an alliance with either the Samajwadi or any other party ahead of the 2017 Assembly polls.” He urged them to focus on ensuring a Congress victory and said that “all this talk of alliance is being spread by opposition parties.”

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.