Statistics show the BSP has always gained from pre-poll alliances, reflecting in the party winning more seats in subsequent elections and largely retaining the vote share too.
Virendra Singh Rawat reports.
Bahujan Samaj Party president Mayawati, also known as Behenji, is known for monologue press conferences, where she reads from text and rarely entertains impromptu media questions.
However, scribes were taken by surprise when Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav uncharacteristically opted for Behenji’s modus operandi while sharing the dais with her in Lucknow on January 12 to jointly announce the SP-BSP alliance for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Yadav, who is spontaneous in his media interactions, fielding questions in his signature wit and at times dry humour, appeared to be obediently playing second fiddle to Mayawati at the packed joint press conference at a hotel in Lucknow.
Not only did Yadav reach the venue before Mayawati, he effusively thanked the BSP president for accepting the alliance proposal in Uttar Pradesh and giving the SP an equal number of seats, 38, to contest from.
In the assembly polls in 2017, only 19 BSP candidates could win, while none of its candidates was successful in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls compared to the SP’s 47 and five candidates emerging victorious in 2017 and 2014, respectively.
Even then, ironically though, the Yadav-led SP is perceptibly looking more desperate for the alliance than the BSP.
On January 13, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav visited Mayawati at her Lucknow residence to express gratitude for acceding to the SP-BSP alliance.
This has fortified the notion that Behenji has deftly gained control of the alliance at the expense of the SP, which, interestingly, is the bigger partner in terms of elected members.
Alliances help BSP
Nonetheless, statistics show the BSP has always gained from such pre-poll alliances, reflecting in the party winning more seats in subsequent elections and largely retaining the vote share too.
For example, the BSP tied up with the Congress in the 1996 UP assembly polls.
While the BSP won 67 seats, the Congress could pull off victory in only 33 seats.
The Congress, which had been on the decline in UP then with the emergence of regional caste-based outfits in the 1990s, permanently lost its erstwhile Dalit vote bank to the BSP in the state.
In the subsequent UP polls in 2002, 2007, 2012 and 2017, while the BSP won 98, 206, 80 and 19 seats, respectively, the Congress’ tally stood at only 25, 22, 28 and 7 in those years.
The BSP and the SP had tied up when their respective founders, Kanshi Ram and Mulayam Singh Yadav, announced joining hands in 1993 to trump the BJP after the demolition of the disputed structure in Ayodhya in December 1992.
However, their alliance did not last long and ended acrimoniously in June 1995 with the infamous Lucknow guest house incident, in which Mayawati was allegedly manhandled by SP leaders after the BSP suddenly decided to withdraw support to the Mulayam Singh Yadav government.
Mayawati had then vowed never to truck with the SP again.
The BJP forged post-poll alliances with the BSP based on the common minimum programme, helping Mayawati become UP chief minister in 1995, 1997 and 2002, although none of the arrangements lasted long and ended in bitterness on every occasion.
However, while the BSP secured a majority in the 2007 polls, seating Mayawati on the CM’s chair of the country’s most populous state for the fourth time, the graph of BJP slid further down.
The BJP, which was the single-largest party in 1996 with 174 MLAs, saw its tally dwindle in 2002, 2007 and 2012 to 88, 51 and 47 seats, respectively.
The saffron outfit could recoup only in 2017 under the Modi wave, when it won 312 seats on its own, along with its allies contributing 13 seats in the 403-member UP assembly.
Political commentator Hemant Tiwari says the BSP has always benefited from alliances and the same pattern would hold true in the Lok Sabha polls.
“The BSP joined hands with the Congress in 1996 UP elections. The fate of the Congress, thereafter, is for everyone to see, while the BSP proliferated by leaps and bounds,” Tiwari said.
He, however, asserted that the SP-BSP alliance was a “deadly combination”, given the complex caste matrix in UP and the vote banks that these parties represent.
“It is likely that the Ajit Singh-led Rashtriya Lok Dal would become part of the greater SP-BSP alliance, which would give more firepower to the coalition, especially in the Jat-dominated western UP districts,” Tiwari said even as he compared Mayawati to Karnataka chief minister H D Kumaraswamy, who rose to the top post despite his party standing third in terms of the seats won in the assembly polls last year.
Together the SP-BSP seeks to represent more than 65 per cent of the UP population, comprising the Dalits and backward castes (22 per cent and 45 per cent, respectively).
On the basis of their respective vote shares in the recent polls, their combined vote share becomes almost 44 per cent compared to about 40 per cent of the BJP.
In fact, their combination showed signs of robustness when it defeated the BJP last year in an assembly and three parliamentary bypolls, including Gorakhpur, the pocket borough of Uttra Pradesh chief minister Adityanath.
While this is probably the first instance of the BSP going ahead with a pre-poll tie-up for the Lok Sabha polls, the Dalit czarina seems to be relishing the prospect of her name as a probable PM candidate.