With a triangular contest on the cards in Uttar Pradesh between the BJP, the Congress and the SP-BSP-RLD, small parties are striving to stay relevant in the battle of political giants by claiming that in tight contests their dedicated vote bank would be "decisive".
The NISHAD Party, Apna Dal(S), Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), and the Peace Party are busy preparing their strategies for the Lok Sabha polls in Uttar Pradesh where a possibility of a triangular contest involving the BJP has opened up after the Congress was kept out of the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party- Rashtriya Lok Dal alliance.
With political giants ready to battle it out in the Lok Sabha polls against each other in the electorally crucial state of UP, the small parties are hankering for political space and claiming that their dedicated vote bank could be the decisive difference between winning and losing.
"On one seat the candidate will be ours and the symbol will be of the SP and on the other the symbol will be ours and the candidate theirs. Praveen Nishad will contest from Gorakhpur and defeat the BJP like he did in the bye election," Nishad told PTI.
"Our base vote is the vote of fishermen. Our party's vote will be the decisive winning vote for the alliance," he asserted.
Another small party, Apna Dal (Sonelal), whose leader Anupriya Patel is a Union minister in the NDA government, on Friday finalised a seat-sharing agreement with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and will contest on two Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh.
"On about 12-15 seats directly and overall on 30 seats, our traditional Kurmi vote is the deciding factor. So even though in the alliance we have got only two seats, we will transfer votes on many other seats," Apna Dal (S) spokesperson Arvind Sharma told PTI.
The BJP had benefited massively in eastern UP in 2014 due to Apna Dal (S) transferring the Kurmi vote in the general elections, he claimed.
"In the election, wherever there is a tight contest, the chunk of vote we bring to the table will be decisive and crucial," Sharma asserted, adding the Kurmi vote is there in all parts of the state and will help the BJP in a big way.
Another BJP ally, the SBSP, whose president Om Prakash Rajbhar is also a minister in the Yogi government, is still weighing its options and has its doors open for a tie-up with the BJP, the Congress and the grand alliance.
Asked if his party will go with the BJP, he said, "It depends on the BJP. Can't say until we get any assurance on the seat sharing.We have already conveyed that we want five seats."
The Congress, the SP-BSP-RLD alliance, and the BJP know that "our vote bank would be decisive" on a number of seats, Rajbhar said.
With the poll dynamics changing, the Peace Party also finds itself mulling over its options. The party, who till a few months ago had said it was firmly part of the SP-BSP grand alliance, is now looking at various possibilities.
"Both the Congress and the SP-BSP-RLD combine have to decide whether they want to go with us or not. They seem to be wasting our time, but we are ready for the polls," Peace Party president Mohammed Ayub said.
"We contested on about 50 out of the 80 seats last time and would contest at least 50 seats this time as well if we fight on our own," he said.
Sanjay K Pandey, professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), and a political commentator, said the contest will be very keen with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra entering the political arena.
Her presence will enthuse the traditional Congress voters and therefore make the contest triangular and keener than before, he said.
"In such a scenario, the dedicated vote bank of the small parties is going to be very important," he said.
The BSP had made it clear on Tuesday that it would not have any electoral tie-up with the Congress in any state for the polls, ending all speculation over the possibility of an alliance with the grand old party in UP.
The SP and the BSP had forged an alliance on 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state. As per the deal, the SP will contest 37 Lok Sabha seats in UP and the BSP 38, leaving three for the Ajit Singh-led Rashtriya Lok Dal and two for Sonia Gandhi (Rae Bareli) and Rahul Gandhi (Amethi).
The seven-phase Lok Sabha elections begin on April 11.