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SP-BSP tie-up can scare BJP and decimate Congress in UP

Atul Chandra | Updated on: 6 March 2018, 2:53 IST

In a major political development, the Bahujan Samaj Party has decided to support Samajwadi Party candidates in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha by-elections in Uttar Pradesh in an effort to form an anti-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance.

The two by-elections are due to be held on March 11. In Gorakhpur, the seat held by Yogi Adityanath for five consecutive terms, the SP has fielded Pravin Kumar Nishad against BJP’s Upendra Shukla and Congress’s Surhita Chatterjee Karim.

In Phulpur, the SP and BJP have both fielded OBC candidates. Nagendra Singh Patel of SP will take on BJP’s Kaushalendra Singh Patel. Congress has opted for a Brahmin, Manish Mishra.

“We have not fielded any candidate for the Phulpur and Gorakhpur by-elections. My party members will vote to defeat the BJP,” Mayawati said in a statement.

Akhilesh Yadav, the SP president, who had decided to contest the UP assembly elections in 2017 with the Congress, withdrew from the alliance after his party’s dismal performance.

The Samajwadi Party will return the favour by helping BSP chief Mayawati in the Rajya Sabha polls. “SP will support our Rajya Sabha candidate in return,” Mayawati said.

Elections to ten Rajya Sabha seats are scheduled to be held later this month.

Mayawati also said that her party will support SP candidates in the legislative council elections.

While Akhilesh chose to remain quiet on the thaw in relations with the BSP, it was his party’s spokesperson Pankhuri Pathak who confirmed the deal on Twitter.

The ties between the two parties broke down after Mayawati was nearly molested at the State Guest House in Lucknow in 1995 when BSP withdrew support to Mulayam Singh Yadav government.

After the attack on her by the SP goondas, Mayawati cosied up with the BJP and until the announcement on March 4, 2018 she determinedly opposed any alliance with, or support to, the SP.

About the possibility of an alliance between the two sworn enemies for the 2019 Lok Sabha poll, Mayawati said that a call would be taken later and would depend on seat-sharing.

Mayawati extended her conditional support offer also to Congress. She said her party will support Congress in Madhya Pradesh if the latter backs her Rajya Sabha candidate in UP.

The SP has 47 candidates, BSP 19 and Congress six in the state assembly. After ensuring victory of its candidate the SP will be left with a surplus of only nine votes. Mayawati is eyeing these votes in addition to the seven votes of Congress to ensure that she makes it to the Upper House but with the votes in her favour adding up to only 34 her re-entry into the Rajya Sabha will not be without hiccups.

The short-term, opportunistic alliance between Bua (as Mayawati was called by Akhilesh) and Babua (name given to SP chief by Mayawati), if sustained, could turn formidable for the BJP because of the size of SP-BSP’s mutually transferable vote bank.

However, the percentage of votes polled by the SP (21.75) and BSP (16.95) in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections fall way too short of BJP’s 51.80. The SP, BSP and Congress fared much better in the 2017 Assembly elections.

If the two parties can thrash out an alliance, even if its longevity will always be in doubt, it is likely to be more effective than any alliance involving the Congress. Muslims who still are reluctant to support Congress would be more comfortable with the OBC-Dalit combination.

The only problem is the unpredictable nature of Mayawati. If she is ready to give up the state for a role in national politics the ties may hold.

That would leave the Congress, which has put up candidates for both Gorakhpur and Phulpur, high and dry. Having burnt his fingers by forging a friendship with Rahul in the Assembly elections, Akhilesh Yadav would now be twice shy. Both SP and BSP will avoid a three-way split of seats for Lok Sabha given the Congress’s representation in the state Assembly and Lok Sabha.

The Congress thus faces the bleak prospect of contesting the Lok Sabha election alone, unless Rahul Gandhi performs a magician’s hat-trick. The Gorakhpur and Phulpur bypoll results would show whether it is headed for decimation in Uttar Pradesh.   

First published: 6 March 2018, 2:53 IST