'It will be a grand alliance where they could get the Muslims, Dalits and Yadavs in one camp and pose a serious challenge to whatever the BJP might conjure up in the run-up to the 2019 election.'
IMAGE: The Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance is a compulsion for both parties, and Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati came together to secure their political futures, says Sharat Pradhan.
Sharat Pradhan has reported on politics in Uttar Pradesh for several decades.
After the electoral fallout of the Bharatiya Janata Party's defeat by the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance in the Phulpur and Gorakhpur Lok Sabha constituencies, the question being asked is if the BSP and SP will retain the alliance for the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
"Given Mayawati's mercurial nature, the big question now is how long will this bond and camaraderie last," Pradhan tells Rediff.com's Prasanna D Zore.
How significant are the Phulpur and Gorakhpur results for Prime Minister Narendra D Modi, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adiyanath, the Samajwadi Party's Akhilesh Yadav and the Bahujan Samaj Party's Mayawati?
It is a big jolt to Modi and Yogi Adityanath. But the fact that Modi was not at all involved in the campaign lends him some saving grace.
For Yogi, this is a big fall from grace and it is certainly going to damage his position within the party. He was the rising star and star campaigner; they took him all the way to Kerala, the north east and Karnataka.
That image of a star campaigner has taken a severe beating now.
It is just not a question of one seat. The question is why he could not retain a seat that he had won five times as the head of the Gorakhpur mutt.
Before Yogi Adityanath, the previous head of the Gorakhpur mutt, Mahant Avaidyanath, had won this seat. This defeat has shown that the Gorakhpur voters elect only those who head the mutt.
The fact that as a Parliamentarian he hasn' done much for Gorakhpur is reflected in this verdict.
Gorakhpur is a very filthy city and Yogi has always been in denial mode.
The only good thing about him is his honesty. Yogi's problem is he is not a democratic kind of person.
He thinks his writ is the last word and that is how he governs Uttar Pradesh.
He was terribly crestfallen last evening (March 14, the day of the verdict) and was quite candid in admitting overconfidence as the reason why BJP lost Gorakhpur.
While now both Yogi and Modi will have to rework their UP strategy it is still possible that he may be used to whip up communal passions.
While Modi might continue to play the development card, Yogi will be let loose to play the Hindutva card, if Modi is left with nothing but to whip up passions.
Having said that, it is evident both Modi's and Yogi's confidence is shaken.
It is a good sign for both Akhilesh and Mayawati and their parties that despite their differences and egos, they joined hands to counter the strength of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh.
But given such circumstances it has happened in the past also and happened in this election too.
Given Mayawati's mercurial nature, the big question now is how long will this bond and camaraderie last.
Mayawati is very ambitious and Akhilesh being so junior to her, she may not concede much ground to him.
But as far as Yogi is on the scene they may play along to counter him.
How they will adjust with the Congress is also a big issue because nationally the Congress is down in the dumps.
I have been saying from day one that the Congress was foolish to enter the fray in Phulpur and Gorakhpur.
Why do you think Modi and Amit A Shah did not address a single rally in Phulpur or Gorakhpur given that they are always in election mode?
It was sheer overconfidence and arrogance. They did not pre-empt what Mayawati and Akhilesh were capable of hitting them with.
Even I had thought that Gorakhpur would elect a BJP member, though I always knew Phulpur would be tricky for Keshav Prasad Maurya as he is not a known name and has done nothing for that constituency.
IMAGE: The verdict in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur byelection is a lifeline for the SP and BSP, showing them a way how they can defeat the BJP in 2019, says Sharat Pradhan. Photograph: PTI Photo
Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati did not even meet once to stitch this arrangement...
Yes. They just spoke over the phone, but this clearly indicates Mayawati's grip on her voters and that she can deliver the goods even by staying behind the scenes.
Unlike other parties including the SP, Mayawati has a solid grip over her hardcore cadre and they in turn swiftly moved into action and delivered the BSP vote into the SP's kitty.
It proves that she has a committed voter base.
Another important thing is that in 2014, Modi successfully broke the caste alliance so assiduously stitched by both the BSP and SP in UP. The UP voter, cutting across caste lines, overwhelmingly voted for him because he was a star campaigner in 2014.
But the Phulpur and Gorakhpur verdict has brought caste back into the electoral equation.
Are the Gorakhpur and Phulpur results a reflection of the one year of Yogi Adityanath's governance as UP chief minister?
I will not say as much, but in the last one year he was not able to do much for the state in the context of what he had promised before the UP assembly election.
His problem is that he lives in denial and believes 'ki jo maine kah diya wohi sach hai (whatever I do and say is the only right thing).'
Without getting his feet on the ground, he has been making a lot of tall claims in his one year as UP CM.
For instance, he had said he will make roads free of potholes, but they have remained as bad as they were a year ago.
He believes that since he travels on VIP roads the entire state's roads are in a great condition.
He thinks because the UP police has killed many gangsters in encounters, the state's law and order is also in a great condition and the fear of god has been instilled into gangsters.
So, Yogi's problem is he doesn't want to know what the ground realities are. But he still has four years and one can only comment upon his chief ministership after he completes his tenure.
Did caste equations play any major role in the SP-BSP victory over the BJP?
As I said earlier, Modi had demolished the caste card in UP in 2014, but with the SP-BSP tie-up it has once again come to the fore once the election result conclusively proved that Mayawati succeeded in transferring her entire voter base in favour of the SP.
IMAGE: Yogi Adityanath has made many tall claims, says Sharat Pradhan, but the problem is that he lives in denial and doesn't want to know the ground realities. Photograph: Pawan Kumar/Reuters
Do you believe the SP-BSP alliance can become a reality? What would be the broad contours of such an alliance?
I think it is a compulsion for both the SP and BSP.
With both the parties down in the dumps currently, a political leader who met Akhilesh yesterday, and who I happened to meet, told me that both the SP and BSP are all set for a tie-up in 2019.
The political compulsions so favour the current circumstances that they have to come together for their own futures.
The only hitch could be the question of accommodating the Congress in such an alliance.
As the Gorakhpur and Phulpur results showed, the SP and BSP will have an upper hand if they come together.
It will be a grand alliance where they could get the Muslims, Dalits and Yadavs in one camp and pose a serious challenge to whatever the BJP might conjure up in the run-up to the 2019 election.
The contours that could shape up such an alliance would be Mayawati playing a key role in national politics with the SP's support and the latter getting to rule the state.
Mayawati and Akhilesh both have been chief ministers so Mayawati would want to focus on a national role if this alliance were to become a reality.
The only way this game can play out is Mayawati going to the Centre and Akhilesh holding fort in Uttar Pradesh.
The other possibility is both parties could agree to share equal responsibilities in the state government.
If the SP-BSP bloc were to contest the 2019 election together, get a good chunk of MPs from UP, then both would want to play a bigger role as part of a larger alliance of Opposition parties at the Centre.
Will the recent electoral reverses in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, UP play on the BJP's mind as it prepares to take on the Opposition that is showing signs of consolidation? How confident will it be about its 2019 success?
I am sure the ball has been set to roll and Yogi Adityanath has already said they will be reworking their strategy to counter the SP-BSP alliance because they underestimated the impact of these two foes-turned-friends coming together.
My reading is that the BJP will go back to the Ram Mandir issue and their communal agenda to polarise voters.
Will the Ram Mandir play a decisive role and counter the SP-BSP caste math in the 2019 general election?
If the BJP realises it cannot stitch together a winning caste equation then it will return to the core agenda of Hindutva and communal polarisation.
Modi wants to win 2019 and to achieve his aim he could go to any extent.
For all you know, Yogi might be used to flare up communal passions while Modi continues to talk development.
We will get a glimpse of this once the bypoll election to Kairana, which is already a communally charged region, is announced and campaigning starts.