No one is surprised the way the Samajwadi Party and the BSP have gone their separate ways within weeks after being rebuffed by the UP voter. And you are reminded of the Prime Minister’s warnings from every platform in the State that theirs was an opportunistic alliance which is bound to fall apart soon after the poll is over.
Indeed, his description of it as ‘mahamilavat’ was rather apt for it was an unnatural alliance based on nothing better other than a strong desire to fend off the formidable challenge from the Modi-led BJP.
Before the election-eve alliance, the leaders of the two parties were hardly on speaking terms. In fact, they were bitter rivals, both contenders for power in the largest State in the Union.
But nonetheless they forged an alliance, dividing the 80 Lok Sabha seats equally between them while leaving a couple of them for a junior partner, namely, Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal. On paper, along with Mayawati and Akshilesh Yadav, poll pundits reasoned that the alliance was unbeatable because pooling together the votes of the three parties would make it well-nigh impossible for the BJP to win a significant number of seats.
But in poll arithmetic two plus two often does not make four. The fact that the core constituencies of the two parties at the ground level were never at ease with each other was ignored by the ivory-tower pundits who predicted a wipe-out of the BJP in the State.
In fact, the new-found bonhomie between Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav flowered overnight into a Bua-Bhatija relationship, with the Bhatija anointing the Bua as the prime ministerial candidate of the non-NDA parties. In the event, the actual results left the foes-turned-friends shell-shocked.
Not only did the BJP improve hugely on its vote percentage, it ended up limiting the seat count of the Maya-Akhilesh jugalbandi to a mere 15 seats out of 80. The BSP won 10 and the SP five, and Ajit Singh’s RLD zero.
What is remarkable is that though the BJP had polled nearly eight per cent more popular vote in UP, its seat count came down from 73 to 62, nine seats fewer than 2014. Clearly, the alliance had helped Mayawati pick up 10 seats against none in the 2014 election, though her poll percentage did not increase appreciably.
To that extent, she is a beneficiary of the alliance. But as is typical of her, she publicly complains that she was let down by Akhilesh whose Yadavs did not vote for the BSP candidates.
But Akhilesh could return the compliment, arguing that the BSP core supporters failed to vote for the SP candidates since even in their strongholds the SP candidates, including his own wife and cousin, were defeated badly by the BJP.
Such public recriminations between the two parties which only a couple of weeks ago were taking vows of a life-long partnership can only undermine further voters’ faith in opportunistic alliances. The BJP is chuckling in its sleeves, anticipating a smooth run for the party in the next Assembly poll and in the handful of by-elections in the coming weeks.
On Monday, Mayawati closed the door on any further alliance with the SP, unequivocally stating that the BSP henceforth will contest all elections on its own. She again complained that the SP cadres were anti-BSP and anti-Dalit and had failed to follow the ‘gathbandhan’ dharma.
The formal break with the SP was accompanied by Mayawati announcing the formal induction of her brother and nephew in senior organisational positions in her party. This ran counter to her oft-made claim that she would never appoint a family member an office-bearer.
Clearly, she is keen to safeguard huge party funds —- in fact, the highest among all parties, including the BJP. It is her diminishing sway even on the original Jatav constituency among the scheduled castes which may actually account for her successive electoral failures.
Given the strong challenge posed by virtually an all-encompassing Modi-led BJP, probably with the sole omission of Muslims, caste-based parties such as the SP and the BSP look at a bleak future unless they broad-base their appeal.
As of now, the opposition in the largest State in the country lies in tatters, unable to offer constructive criticism either in the State Assembly or in Parliament. Both Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav must widen their appeal beyond caste and community if they have to regain the trust of the people.
By S Sadanand