Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati’s announcement on Sunday, March 4, to support the Samajwadi Party (SP) in by-polls to two Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh later this month has come as a big surprise to all those who have been witness to the bitterness that has prevailed between the two parties for nearly three decades.
No wonder, there is great scepticism among political observers, who are seeing beyond what meets the eye in the development. Visibly, this may appear to be a good beginning towards a “mahagathbandhan” (grand alliance) against the increasingly powerful Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). However, this could also be a ploy on the part of a shrewd Mayawati to make an entry into the Rajya Sabha.
Without spelling out her own political ambitions, she went on record to state, “I would expect Samajwadi Party to support the BSP nominee for Rajya Sabha, while we would extend support to their candidate in the state legislative council.”
Refraining from describing the move as a precursor to a “mahagathbandhan”, she sought to clarify, “All that my party men have resolved to do is to extend support to the party that has the best potential to give BJP a run for its money at the forthcoming by-elections to two Lok Sabha seats in UP.”
The by-poll is due on March 11 in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, the two prominent parliamentary constituencies, vacated by chief minister Yogi Adityanath and deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, respectively. Both have got berths in the state legislative council (upper house of the state legislature).
Theoretically, Mayawati’s announcement means a lot and is seen as a “good beginning” towards the formation of a grand alliance against the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. But it may be too far-fetched to assume that this last-minute declaration would make any major impact on the by-elections. The announcement notwithstanding, whether it would be possible for Mayawati to transfer her party’s votes to the Samajwadi Party within such a short span of time remains a million dollar question.
After all, BSP supporters are largely the economically weaker Dalits, who have little access to television news.
Even we were to assume that they do have access to the TV news, it may not prove so simple to convince a fairly large section of Dalits to vote for a party believed to be dominated by Yadavs, who are considered the biggest oppressors of the downtrodden Dalits. It would have been a different matter if the move was to be treated as the first step towards a Bihar like grand alliance against the BJP. But such a grand alliance would not be complete till the Congress joins in.
Mayawati’s announcement hasn’t come without preconditions, the foremost being SP’s support for a Rajya Sabha berth. Each aspirant for Rajya Sabha requires a minimum of 38 votes from members of the state Assembly. With a paltry strength of just 17 in the UP Assembly, Mayawati was far short of numbers which she could get only from Samajwadi Party, which has a strength of 46.
Here too what Mayawati is understood to have demanded that the SP gives the BSP Rajya Sabha candidate its first preference votes to ensure a smooth sail. The SP can do so only by sacrificing its own candidate.
In the event of SP pushing its own nominee first, it would have only 8 surplus votes to be passed on to Mayawati. Now, assuming that additional support of Congress party’s seven members would also be forthcoming, Mayawati would still remain six short of the desired figure of 38. That is the reason Mayawati is understood to be insisting on ensuring the first preference support from SP.
Evidently, while both SP and BSP have been busy proclaiming that their main objective is to fight “communal forces” (read BJP), the fact of the matter is that Mayawati is seeking her pound of flesh from SP.
Relations between Mayawati and then SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav soured after SP supporters assaulted BSP legislators and even tried to storm into Mayawati’s room in the UP government’s State Guest House way back on June 2, 1995, after she withdrew support from the Mulayam-led SP-BSP coalition government. With the passage of time, the relations worsened as Mayawati continued to believe that SP’s attack on the guest house was actually an attempt on her life.
After the Yadav family feud culminated in SP’s rout in the 2017 Assembly election, Akhilesh Yadav was often heard expressing his inclination to join hands with the BSP. Now that Mulayam is virtually out of the Akhilesh’s scheme of things, Mayawati has chosen to let bygones be bygones.
Surely, it is a testing time for Akhilesh who is now clearly in a tight corner. In order to prove that he really meant to combat “communal forces”, he would have to abdicate his party’s claim to the only Rajya Sabha seat available to it. However, there can be no doubt that SP’s tactical sacrifice could change the dynamics of the 2019 general elections.
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