SP-BSP combination can create problems for BJP

By Yashwardhan Joshi. Dated: 3/12/2018 3:34:54 PM

Politics, they say, makes strange bedfellows. The coming together of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party for the two Lok Sabha byelections in Uttar Pradesh on March 11 is a rare case of two opposing forces shedding their differences to take on a common enemy-- the Bharatiya Janata Party. Look at it profoundly and it turns up as a case of political survival.
Both Mayawati's and Akilesh Yadav's parties-- the BSP and the SP-- have not only seen an erosion of their electoral base after the 2014 Lok Sabha and 2017 UP Assembly elections, but are also staring at political oblivion. The 2014 Lok Sabha polls reduced the tally of the SP from 23 to 5 in the Lower House, while the BSP, which had 21 members in the outgoing House, was annihilated in the polls and couldn't open its account.
The 2017 Assembly elections were a watershed in UP politics, with devastating consequences for both Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav. The BSP could win only 19 seats, down from 80 in 2012, its lowest tally since 1991; the SP fell to its lowest depth since its inception in 1992, managing only 47 seats. The terminator turned out to be the BJP which conquered the House of 403 with more than 300 seats.
Now two crucial elections are coming up for the SP and the BSP-- the Lok Sabha bypolls in Phulpur and Gorakhpur and the Rajya Sabha elections. Both Mayawati and Akhilesh see these as means to stay afloat and also to access their support base.
In the last five years, the BJP has made a severe dent in their vote banks. The Yadavs, the core vote bank of the Swamajwadis, have been tilting towards the BJP, while the Muslims, who had so painstakingly been wooed by SP patriarch Mulayam Singh over the years, are seen to be leaning towards non-BJP parties. In fact, the SP, under the leadership of Akhilesh, has also lost support of the most backward classes (MBC) such as Nishad, Kushwaha, Saini, Maurya, and Patel whom Mulayam had so assiduously brought into the party fold.
As for Mayawati, her monopoly over Dalit politics in UP has been broken. The BJP has managed to alienate her from non-Jatav Dalit voters. Her effort to charm the upper castes and the Muslims up giving them the party ticket in large numbers in previous elections have all gone in vain. On top of that, the continuous exodus from her party is giving her heebie-jeebies. She had resigned her Rajya Sabha seat in protest, and her party has no representation in the Lok Sabha. She knows she has a bleak future ahead unless she teams up with Akhilesh. She wants to come back to Parliament, and Akhilesh is the only channel to help her reach there. One needs 37 MLAs in the UP Assembly to win a Rajya Sabha seat. The BSP has 19, which is 18 short. The SP has 47, ten surplus that it can transfer to the BSP. By getting the support of seven MLAs of the Congress, and one of the Rashtriya Lok Dal, Mayawati can get back to the Rajya Sabha.
In return, she has promised to support the SP candidates in Phulpur and Gorakhpur bypolls. Akhilesh's calculations are that the vote share of his party-- 21.8 per cent-- and BSP's vote share of 22.2 per cent in the 2017 Assembly polls when combined in the March bypolls would easily tilt the balance in favour of his candidates.
But will the vote share turn into seats is a big question. It didn't in the last Assembly elections. Besides, Gorakhpur is the bastion of Chief Minister Yogi Adiyanath. He won the seat in 2014 and vacated it in 2017 when he became the chief minister.
The thinking in the SP camp is that the SP-BSP combine will be
able to repeat what they did 25 years ago when the combination of Kanshi Ram and Mulayam Singh defeated the BJP in the 1993 Assembly elections. But now there is no Kanshi Ram, and Mulayam Singh is not running the SP. And the BJP is not the BJP of Kalyan Singh. It is a different party under Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, who are seen to have mastered the blue print of winning elections.
But what if the SP-BSP combine manage to pull through? What will be the political consequences? For one, the defeat of the BJP candidate in Yogi Adiyanath's bastion would not only have repercussions in Uttar Pradesh but also beyond, not only for the Yogi but also for the saffron party as a whole.
But will the victory or, may be, a good showing for the SP-BSP combine lead to a unity of anti-BJP forces ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections? Mayawati has already made it clear that it is an understanding only for the present and not an alliance for the Lok Sabha polls. But who knows. Things may take a sudden turn as they have now depending on outcome of take by-polls results.
Yashwardhan Joshi is a Journalist of long standing and commentator on issues of Administration and Social Issues.



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