In what it might be called a big jolt to Samajwadi Party (SP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati on Monday said that her party will contest all elections in the future on its own, indicating an end of its much talked-about alliance with the SP. The announcement was made by the BSP president in a series of tweets in which she said that “post-poll behaviour”, which she said raised doubts on whether it can defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as the main factor behind the decision.
The BSP-SP alliance
Until 2017 Assembly elections, both SP and BSP were rivals of each other but the scenario changed when the BJP wrested power with an impressive majority. After which, with their very existence under threat from the BJP’s ability to aggregate populist issues around the Hindutva theme and woo Dalit and OBC caste groups, the BSP and the SP buried the hatchet to form an alliance, which included the Rashtriya Lok Dal, ahead of the Lok Sabha election. But, the SP-BSP alliance didn't bother much, and in the Lok Sabha elections also the BJP won 62 out of the 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh with a vote share of 49.6%.
The SP-BSP alliance had contested 75 of the 80 seats in UP, but could win only 15. The BSP fared better than the SP by winning 10 seats; the SP could garner only five. Since the results came out, both camps have been rife with mutual suspicion and rumours that lay the blame for their defeat on the other.
But if we see that the long-term analysis of BJP’s performance in Uttar Pradesh, it shows that the saffron party's seat share to vote share ratio in 2019 is the lowest when a comparison is done of 1996, 1998, 2014 and 2019, times when it has won majority of the seats. Seat share to vote share ratio is a useful metric to measure a party’s ability to convert popular support into seats.
So will the end of BSP-SP alliance help BJP?
If we see the data, according to the Hindustan Times, there were 373 assembly constituency's (AC) which had BJP candidates in the 2014, 2017 and 2019 elections. The BJP won 310, 302 and 262 of these in the 2014, 2017 and 2019 elections. The trends are completely opposite for the SP and the BSP. Of the 143 ACs, which the SP contested in each of these, it won 33, 27 and 37 in the 2014, 2017 and 2019 elections. There are 192 ACs that had BSP candidates in 2014, 2017 and 2019 elections, and it won 65 of these in 2019 against just seven and 13 in 2014 and 2017.
The SP-BSP-RLD gathbandhan, which was expected to make a dent in the NDA tally riding on support of Dalits, Muslims, Yadavs and Jats, suffered a major defeat in the Lok Sabha elections, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) scoring a resounding victory in Uttar Pradesh. But, for the BJP the chaos in the SP-BSP alliance is a welcome development. In rally-after-rally, the BJP had dismissed the Mahagathbandhan as a ‘highly adulterated’ alliance that was nothing but an opportunistic coming together of mortal enemies.
The results of the 2019 polls suggest that the SP-BSP cadres could not turn the joint poll campaign into an effective one, despite constant appeals from Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati. While the BSP-SP's caste agenda was also unsuccessful due to the uneffective campaining, one the other hand, the BJP executed the mobilisation of these marginalised groups in a well-planned manner, strategically targeting dissemination of governmental policies such as Ujjawala Scheme, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Rural electrification and Mudra scheme to Dalit groups. The SP even failed to mobilise the non-Yadav, OBC and Most Backward castes.
To be sure, the fact remains that the SP-BSP alliance has failed to live up to its expectations in the 2019 polls. The main reason for this is a decline in the combined vote share of the SP and BSP in 2019 compared to 2014 and 2017, even as the BJP increased its vote share to almost 50%.
Since the breaking up of the alliance is likely to benefit the BJP more than it will benefit the BSP and the SP, both the regional parties need to do honest introspection and apportion at least some of the blame to their own respective local leaders.