The power of two: on SP-BSP winning U.P. byelections

While announcing her support for the Samajwadi Party in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha constituencies, Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati was conducting a political experiment: to test whether her party could effectively work with the SP, until recently her principal rival. By all accounts, the experiment has been a striking success. Poll arithmetic was an important reason for the reversal of fortunes of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the two constituencies, especially Gorakhpur, which Yogi Adityanath had won five successive times, beginning in 1998. Given this, the loss is an embarrassing political setback for the Chief Minister and is likely to be perceived as the squandering of the goodwill built up by successive heads of the Gorakhnath Math. Phulpur, vacated by Keshav Prasad Maurya when he teamed up with Mr. Adityanath as his deputy CM, is also a stinging defeat. That a Chief Minister and his deputy have lost in their own backyards is, to understate the point, hardly a good advertisement for the BJP’s popularity or that of its State government. Arguably, it is the BJP’s very success that has brought its rivals together. The BSP, which has been averse to political alliances, had offered support to the SP unconditionally without committing to a formal tie-up. The question now is what this successful experiment will engender. Will it convince Ms. Mayawati to go farther, confident that her support base is not averse to a larger alliance between the two parties? The fate of the 2019 election may well depend on the answer to this. To an extent, the leadership of Akhilesh Yadav helped seal the SP-BSP understanding. Ms. Mayawati found it easier to jettison the baggage of the past now that her bitter rival and SP founder Mulayam Singh has receded to the background. Akhilesh Yadav has been open to alliances, displaying a willingness to rise above the clannishness of the earlier generation. What Gorakhpur and Phulpur demonstrate is that the BJP is not invincible in the face of a new social and political electoral regrouping, something that the SP and the BSP must be fully aware of.

Elsewhere, the byelections in Bihar’s Araria Lok Sabha and Jehanabad Assembly constituencies have shown that the Rashtriya Janata Dal of Lalu Prasad will not be wiped out by the return of Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. Although the results in Bihar, unlike those in UP, may not lead to a realignment of forces, the RJD and the Congress can hope to gain some political momentum on the back of the BJP’s loss. The RJD may not have fully recovered from the collapse of the grand alliance with the desertion of the JD(U), but it knows it is not out of the political equation completely. Together with the Rajasthan by-election results, these losses have created doubts about the strength of the BJP’s hold in the Hindi heartland, and given its rivals some reason for cheer and some cause to believe in the arithmetic of alliances.

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Printable version | May 6, 2021 8:47:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/the-power-of-two/article23247069.ece

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