The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) on Saturday officially announced their tie-up in Uttar Pradesh, with the two former rivals agreeing to share 38 seats each in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, and kept the Congress out of the alliance. The two parties, however, will not field any candidates in Amethi and Rae Bareli, represented by Congress President Rahul Gandhi and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, respectively.
At their much-awaited joint press conference at a five-star hotel in Lucknow, BSP chief Mayawati and SP’s Akhilesh Yadav conveyed to their supporters that the two leaderships had buried the hatchet. Yadav indicated that he would like to see the BSP leader as the next prime minister of India.
Mayawati said the alliance would last beyond the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and continue for the 2022 state Assembly polls — a message not just to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) but also the Congress, that the era of ‘third front’ politics could soon be back. Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, one of the prime movers behind the idea of a ‘federal front’, was quick to “welcome” the SP-BSP alliance.
The alliance has the potential to stop the BJP’s juggernaut in UP, where it won 73 of the 80 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, contributing significantly to it forming a majority government at the Centre.
According to estimates, an SP-BSP alliance in 2014 could have halved BJP’s wins in UP. The BJP subsequently won, along with its allies, 325 of 403 seats in the Assembly polls in 2017.
“This press conference will rob the guru-chela of their sleep,” Mayawati said, referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah. The BSP chief said she was confident the alliance would defeat the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls, just as it had in Phulpur, Gorakhpur and Kairana parliamentary bypolls last year.
She also explained her reasons for not aligning with the Congress, pointing out how her party ensured an effective vote transfer of its support base to its ally, but the Congress failed to do so, even “slyly” transferring its votes to “casteist” forces like the BJP.
According to their agreed formula, the SP and the BSP will contest 38 seats each. The alliance will not field any candidates in Amethi and Rae Bareli, and decide on two other seats later. The Rashtriya Lok Dal, a potential ally, has demanded five seats, but the alliance is amenable to give it only two. Yadav could also accommodate some of the smaller parties from the SP’s share.
As far back as 1956, dalit icon B R Ambedkar and socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia discussed the possibility of an alliance of dalits and backward castes. In UP, it finally happened in 1993, at the height of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and prevented the BJP from forming government in the state. The alliance ended in recriminations in June 1995. Unruly SP workers barged into a guesthouse in Lucknow, vandalised it, beat up Mayawati and hurled casteist slurs at the BSP leadership. Mayawati swore never to ally with the SP ever.
However, the equations changed after the SP witnessed a generational shift, with Yadav succeeding his father Mulayam Singh as party chief and reaching out to Mayawati.