'The SP-BSP have almost come to an understanding that the BSP will take the larger share of parliamentary seats and take care of national politics.'
'The SP in future assembly elections will take larger seats and take care of state politics.'
With some of India's biggest states going to the hustings next month, the poll bugle for the 2019 Lok Sabha election has been sounded.
The Opposition realises that the arithmetic of alliances will be its most potent weapon against the Bharatiya Janata Party which is not as formidable as it was five years ago.
But this Opposition fellowship is shaky. Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati has said she will not beg for seats to forge an alliance.
Last week, she refused to ally with the Congress for the assembly elections in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
The Dalit vote will be a decisive factor in how the Opposition versus BJP political game turns out in the coming elections.
"Look at the approach Akhilesh Yadav has taken to consolidate an alliance with the BSP. The SP is not a small party compared to the BSP, but he has agreed to play an accommodative role. This is the kind of role the Congress has to play if they have to be seen as coordinating all the political parties at the national level," Dr Prashant Trivedi -- a political scientist at Lucknow's Giri Institute of Development Studies and author of Beyond the Religious Divide -- Caste and Ubiqutous Backwardness, which will be released soon -- tells Rediff.com's Archana Masih.
What was behind Mayawati's strategy of snubbing the Congress for the upcoming assembly elections?
Mayawati has always been a hard bargainer. She may be open to a mahagatbandhan (grand alliance) in UP, but in other states like MP and Rajasthan, she has decided not to ally with the Congress.
The Congress is going into the election with the belief that they are going to win the Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh elections on its own and don't need to concede ground to other parties.
There is an overlap of voters between the Congress and BSP in both Rajasthan and MP.
In the absence of the BSP, Dalits used to vote for the Congress. Only after the BSP's emergence, in certain areas, a section of Dalits shifted to the BSP.
What does this mean for the grand Opposition alliance to confront the BJP in the 2019 election?
All these political parties are reading the ground situation as well.
The 2019 grand alliance is not only about political parties coming together, there is also a public mood which is getting crystallised day by day against the BJP. It has already been seen in the UP and Rajasthan by-elections.
The mood of the people will bring these parties together.
The Congress is relying on the sentiment that the anti-BJP wave will help it sail through. I don't know how much of this expectation will materialise, especially in MP.
UP will be crucial to the BJP's performance in 2019. How will the anti-BJP alliances forged in the state effect the results?
If the SP (Samajwadi Party) and BSP come together it will be a formidable alliance. In the last year we have seen that there is a transferability of votes between the BSP and SP.
The pressure of the aggressive upper castes is making the voters of the BSP and SP transfer their votes to each other.
If the BSP-SP come together, they will be able to challenge the hegemony of the BJP.
If there is a mahagatbandhan in UP, the Congress will get about 8 to 10 odd seats.
The SP-BSP have almost come to an understanding that the BSP will take the larger share of parliamentary seats and take care of national politics.
The SP in future assembly elections will take larger seats and take care of state politics.
That is why Akhilesh (Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav) has said he will play the junior party role in the parliamentary election.
This astute strategy will lead to a formidable alliance even if the Congress is not part of the alliance.
The Bhim Army's Chandrshekhar Azad has the support of younger Dalits who may not see much in the politics of Mayawati.
He represents the restlessness of the younger Dalits.
The BSP has a middle path agenda, not confronting the hegemony of the upper castes on the ground, but working through the state.
Their (the BSP's) strategy has been to come to power to form the government and then work through the state to intervene in social problems.
They (the BSP) don't believe in confronting social problems on the ground and fight the fight of civil society.
Chandrashekhar Azad's politics wants to confront the upper caste hegemony at the ground level.
These people (younger Dalits) are restless because in everyday life they want to challenge the upper castes or dominant class hegemony.
In the parliamentary elections, this will only further consolidate Dalit vote against the BJP. He (Azad) will play the role of crystalliser or catalyst against the BJP.
He has already openly said it after his release from prison.
Mayawati said she has a problem with the Congress's senior leadership. What does this say about the Congress's ability to be accommodative about alliances?
It (the Congress) has to perhaps be more accommodative to regional political parties like the SP and BSP.
2019 is going to be an election against the BJP. On the ground there is a consolidation of social forces that are standing up against the BJP.
If the Congress wants to be seen as defeating the BJP, they have to be more proactive in reaching out to potential allies.
Look at the approach Akhilesh Yadav has taken to consolidate an alliance with the BSP. The SP is not a small party compared to the BSP, but he has agreed to play an accommodative role.
This is the kind of role the Congress has to play if they have to be seen as coordinating all the political parties at the national level.
How will the result of the five state assembly elections bear on the 2019 election?
They will reflect the mood of the nation. In all these states, the fight is between the BJP and Congress.
In the past 4 or 5 years, the Congress has not been able to defeat the BJP in any other state except Punjab and to some extent Karnataka.
This will show if the Congress has regained and sharpened its politics to consolidate itself to defeat the BJP.
It is a test for the Congress how they position themselves in front of the nation to defeat the BJP.
How will 2019 be different from 2014 for the BJP?
2014 was an all out election based on Narendra Modi. There was an underlying current of communal polarisation because of Narendra Modi's history in Guajart.
This government in the last 5 years has miserably failed to live up to its promise of development and removing corruption. They cannot go back to the people with the same agenda.
The BJP will rely more on its agenda of Hindu nationalism rather than the 2014 agenda of development and anti corruption.
Do you see a grand alliance taking shape against the BJP?
Even if the Congress fails to bring in a national alliance of political parties, there will be a regional alliance in every state.
If the Congress can bring parties together only then there will be a possibility of a national alliance.
In every state there will be an NDA alliance and an anti-NDA alliance.
There is still no Opposition leader who can match up to Narendra Modi.
Yes he is very popular among the rank and file. No political leader has such a commanding leadership.
There are many who will go with him to any extent and justify all his actions whether good or bad. A sizeable chunk is still very loyal to him.
How has Rahul Gandhi matched up to Modi's popularity?
Rahul versus Modi is a false debate. This myth of a strong leader has already been questioned by the way this government has done.
People have realised it is policies and institutions of government that work in the favour of the people, not strong leaders. People will see the programmes of parties rather than personalities.