Bua-babua: Why SP-BSP understanding matters more than bypolls to 2 seats
The two Lok Sabha seats from Uttar Pradesh fell vacant after incumbents Yogi Adityanath and Keshav Prasad Maurya took over as the state's chief minister and deputy CM respectively. The results to these bypolls will indicate whether the saffron juggernaut, which has steamrolled other parties in UP, can be brought to a halt by joining forces.
The SP and the BSP's coming together is after a gap of 23 years. Until Adityanath took over as CM last year, the two parties took turns to govern it in these years and were bitter rivals. The bitterness can be traced back to 1995 when BSP supremo Mayawati was assaulted by Samajwadi goons.
Unsurprisingly, the news of the two parties coming together on Sunday was a jolt for the BJP that was busy celebrating its success in the North East. Until then the party was confident that its election machinery and grassroots penetration would see it through in the two constituencies.
An adverse result would not only mean a snub to the might of Adityanath, but would also give the BJP jitters about the 2019 General Elections.
With 73 of its 80 seats going to the National Democratic Allaince, UP contributed the most to Narendra Modi's kitty in 2014. Naturally he would bank on an encore to return to power.
While announcing the political agreement, Mayawati clarified that the understanding was limited to the current by-polls. Any alliance will be announced publicly, she said.
Experts are still divided over the possibility of a more permanent pre-poll arrangement in the run-up to 2019.
“Whether you call it an alliance or an understanding, one thing is for sure: the BSP's agenda is to win a Rajya Sabha seat and get Mayawati back into the Upper House,” said Kanpur-based political analyst AK Verma.
SP's Akhilesh Yadav is also looking at bigger things ahead, according to Verma. The former UP CM “has nothing to lose and is trying to bargain in anticipation of support in Parliamentary elections,” he said.
But an between the two will hurt both the SP ad the BSP as “people are fully aware that such an arrangement is with the single motive of defeating BJP”, Verma said.
“Modi has been successful in creating this persona at the national level of someone consistently working on the development plank. He is investing his 100% and is forcing his ministers to do the same, which is being appreciated by people. Any alliance of this sort will backfire,” Verma added.
A former BSP leader too ruled out the possibility of such an alliance. “It is a win-win situation for Mayawati, considering the BSP gets a Rajya Sabha seat for just tacitly supporting the SP. She wants to send her brother to the upper house and save him since from several pending criminal cases,” the leader said.
According to him, the whole point of the BSP chief's Sunday press conference was to assure potential ticket seekers that there was nothing to worry: “She doesn't want to lose the opportunity of auctioning these tickets.”
There would be an economic conflict too for the two parties to come together, according to Verma. “SP is a party of Other Backward Classes, who are landowners and wield considerable influence. BSP supporters, on the other hand, are those who work as labourers in fields owned by such OBCs,” he said.
“It is an exploitative relation. It will be impossible for the BSP to come to terms with OBCs,” he added.
Sudha Pai, a former professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, however disagrees with Verma on the ground that UP has undergone massive demographic and political change. The exploitative relation that Verma talks about existed in the 1990s, according to her.
“My assessment is that such an alliance will heavily depend on the results of these by-polls,” Pai said. Many other political outfits are also taking shape in the run-up to 2019 and one has to wait and watch, she added.
Congress leader Rashid Alvi welcomed the decision, saying it would have been even better had the Grand Old Party been taken into confidence. “In UP, all secular forces should come together to defeat the BJP. I welcome this alliance. I am hopeful that all secular forces would come together in 2019,” he added.
Many, however, believe that the Congress fighting these seats would benefit the SP by dividing upper-caste votes.
“Once the results are out, everyone would know what could happen if the SP and the BSP join hands in UP. This is a historic moment and will set the agenda for the 2019 polls, which will see the BJP warming up the Opposition benches in parliament,” said an SP leader.
Edited by Joyjeet Das