Uttar Pradesh 2017

All eyes on SP and BSP supremos as big day arrives

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi with Samajwadi Party president and U.P. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav during a joint press conference, in Lucknow.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi with Samajwadi Party president and U.P. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav during a joint press conference, in Lucknow.   | Photo Credit: Rajeev Bhatt

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s hint that his Samajwadi Party (SP) was not averse to considering a post-poll arrangement with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in the event of a hung Assembly in the State has thrown open the possibility of a political re-alignment in the State.

If Mr. Yadav’s remarks in response to questions by the BBC were guarded, so were the BSP supremo Mayawati’s when asked to respond to his overtures.

She simply said her party would get enough seats to form the next government — she did not reject the idea out of hand.

This has surprised many as in the past, Ms. Mayawati has tied up with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on more than one occasion. But the sense that is emerging now is that Ms. Mayawati, facing a battle of survival, may have other ideas now.


Dalit-Muslim platform

In the general elections of 2014, her party got less than 20% of the votes and failed to win even a single seat in U.P., with some of her Dalit and much of her most Backward Caste support base moving to the BJP.

In the current polls, she embarked on a new experiment — to create a Dalit-Muslim platform, giving over 100 seats to members of the minority community.

To tie up with the BJP, therefore, would be to commit hara-kiri as one of the reasons why the SP-Congress combine was the first choice of the Muslims in this elections was the fact that she had shared power with the BJP in the past.

Indeed, while this may rule out her joining hands with the BJP this time, her not being in power could make her Dalit base vulnerable again.

In that context, she may prefer a tie-up with Mr. Yadav rather than sit in the Opposition.

Of course, the Samajwadi Party and the BSP, would have to set aside the bitterness of the past first: in 1993, the SP and the BSP contested the Assembly polls in undivided Uttar Pradesh together, won 176 seats and formed the government under Mulayam Singh Yadav with outside support of the then Janata Dal and the Congress.


Bitter past

However, in 1995, Ms. Mayawati withdrew her support and the Mulayam Singh government was reduced to a minority. Angry SP legislators and supporters descended on the guest house on Mirabai Marg in Lucknow where Ms. Mayawati was staying and assaulted her, bringing to an end that relationship.

But today, Mr. Mulayam Singh no longer holds the reins; it is his son who does and he calls the BSP leader ‘bua’ or aunt.

Clearly, it will not be an easy alliance to forge, but if it is a battle of survival for Ms. Mayawati, Mr. Akhilesh Yadav also faces the prospect of his party splitting, with one faction going with uncle Shivpal Yadav, if he fails to form a government.

For the Congress, bringing the two parties together will be of paramount importance as it could form the kernel of an Opposition formation nationally that can take on the might of the BJP in 2018.

In the first press conference that Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi addressed with Mr. Yadav, he had said that while the BJP’s ideology was dangerous for India, the BSP’s was not.

Indeed, even if the BJP gets a majority or is close enough to be able to form a government, these election results could force the SP and BSP to join forces in the Opposition.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2020 3:38:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/uttar-pradesh-2017/all-eyes-on-sp-and-bsp-supremos-as-big-day-arrives/article17444065.ece

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