LUCKNOW: What made Mayawati so desperate to extend support to the Samajwadi Party (SP), leaving behind the acrimony of over two decades? Possibly, her effort to overcome the existential crisis that has gripped her and her Bahujan Samaj Party. However, the coming together of the SP and the BSP for the 2019 elections is easier said than done.
Following the 1995 guesthouse incident when Mayawati was allegedly held hostage by SP workers after she pulled out of the Mulayam Singh Yadav government, she had vowed never to ally with his party again. But the saffron surge in the 2014 and 2017 elections has changed it all.
The SP had realised the need to tie up with Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav had been sending her feelers for a while, but the fear of slipping into political oblivion after the Rajya Sabha polls seems to have pushed Mayawati into seeking a rapprochement with her arch-rival.
Moreover, after being reduced to a duck in the Lok Sabha in 2014 and with a paltry 19 MLAs in the UP Assembly after the 2017 elections, it was impossible for her to get even a single BSP member elected to the upper house without support. Besides, the continuous exodus of lieutenants from her party has left her isolated and politically vulnerable.
Even her clout among the Dalits, especially the Jatavs—the caste Mayawati belongs to—has been weakening over time. Besides, since 2012, the BSP has been getting a vote share of over 20 per cent in elections but it has not been translating into seats.
Similarly, the Samajwadis too are grappling with the rout of 2017. With just five MPs in the Lok Sabha, the 2017 Uttar Pradesh polls came as a jolt.
In such a scenario, if this deal grows into a grand alliance ahead of the 2019 general elections, it would be fraught with several challenges.
The main challenge would be to intercept the BJP’s course that has been charted out by the RSS and on which the party is treading cautiously by winning over non-Yadav backwards and non-Jatav Dalits into its fold. Further, the BJP has breached both the SP and the BSP vote banks, as is evident from the resounding saffron win in the 2017 state polls.
Although it may seem that a combined vote share of over 50 per cent could make a difference to the BJP’s march, things on the ground would not be simple. “The bypoll outcome will decide the fate of any future alliance,” said a senior SP leader of the Shivpal Yadav camp.
Another challenge would be seat-sharing and ticket distribution. Mayawati has always insisted that any alliance is possible “only” if the BSP gets a respectable number of seats. It would also be tough to stop the BJP from polarising the majority vote by portraying the alliance as ‘an all-minority platform’.
“It won’t be easy for the leaders to make their bonhomie percolate to cadres and voters at the ground level,” says social commentator S R Darapuri.
Most important, strategising the proposed alliance’s fight against the BJP won’t be easy. “It is no longer an upper-caste Hindu political outfit of the 90s. It is now an inclusive Hindu organisation representing majority sentiment in a more emphatic way than ever before,” says J P Shukla, a political observer.
Two’s company in Uttar Pradesh politics
The fear of slipping into political oblivion after the Rajya Sabha polls seems to have pushed Mayawati into seeking a rapprochement with her arch-rival
Since 2012, the BSP has been getting a vote share of over 20 per cent in elections but it has not been translating into seats
The Samajwadis too are grappling with the rout of 2017. With just five MPs in the Lok Sabha, the 2017 Uttar Pradesh polls came as a jolt
The main challenge would be to intercept the BJP’s course on which the party is treading cautiously by winning over non-Yadav backwards and non-Jatav Dalits