While an official announcement is yet to be made, the formula for an alliance of the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Rashtriya Lok Dal seems to be ready in Uttar Pradesh, with the parties showing little interest in accommodating the Congress, sources say.
SP and BSP leaders said the leadership was less inclined to include the Congress, and at best would leave just the Rae Bareli and Amethi seats for the grand old party. However, they said the seat-sharing arithmetic was “still fluid”, and the final call would be taken by Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav. “Alliance is confirmed. But the final decision will be taken by the national president,” said a senior SP leader on Sunday on condition of anonymity.
The leader said while the exact formula for the 80 seats would be revealed “any time”, the two top leaders of the parties had reached an understanding over the arrangement. The SP would also accommodate its ally, the Nishad Party, while the RLD is expected to get a few seats.
No to Rahul vs Modi
Sources said that Mr. Yadav met Ms. Mayawati recently to discuss the arrangement and that the two parties were in constant touch. They said the announcement was being delayed till the last minute to give the BJP minimum chance to come up with an alternative narrative. “Who knew till the last moment in Phulpur and Gorakhpur, and then in Kairana about the support by the BSP and then fielding of the RLD candidate,” the SP source said, illustrating his point. The SP believes that the Congress does not bring in any “add-on” votes, and its leadership is apprehensive that giving the Congress space in U.P. would, in turn, make the election about “Rahul Gandhi vs Narendra Modi”.
A BSP source also said that the talks between the two parties were “conclusive.” “Everything is finalised, people are waiting for the declaration,” he said.
While it is being speculated that Ms. Mayawati will make the announcement on her birthday on January 15, BSP general secretary Satish Mishra last week told reporters outside Parliament that “this is not how birthdays are celebrated”.
Sources in the BSP are also apprehensive that an alliance with the Congress would not only reduce the party’s bargaining power but also not ensure any positive transfer of voters. “The 1996 election is a bad experience. The Congress votes did not get transferred to the BSP. Besides, by committing to a pre-poll alliance with the Congress where Dalits have traditionally voted, the BSP would lose its independence as a political force,” said a BSP leader. The alliance with the SP was based on a “natural formula and old experience,” said the leader.
According to the BSP leader, the seat-sharing formula would be based on the positions acquired by the parties in 2014, though sources said Ms. Mayawati had been adamant on at least 38 seats. The final difference between the SP and the BSP number will not be much, an SP leader said. While the BSP had scored a zero in 2014, it stood second in 34 seats. The SP won five and came runner-up in 31. The RLD was second in Mathura.
The BJP won 71 seats, while its ally, the Apna Dal, added two more. This time around, the BJP also has to accomodate another ally, the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, which is breathing down its neck over the implementation of the sub-categorisation of the OBC quota.
R.D. Tripathi, senior journalist from Lucknow, said the SP-BSP alliance would be potent enough on its own. He said the Congress fighting as a separate force will not only help the party but also damage the BJP more. “It is seen that when Congress combines with either the SP or the BSP, the upper caste voters get inclined to vote for the BJP,” said Mr. Tripathi, giving examples of the 2017 Assembly poll and the 1996 election.
Mr. Tripathi said that by fighting alone, the Congress can be an alternative for the floating voters and the upper caste voters angry with the BJP but not willing to join the SP-BSP alliance.
“Not just arithmetic, the SP-BSP alliance will be about chemistry, as there is rural distress. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s credibility is down and Yogi Adityanath's governance has been poor,” said Mr. Tripathi.