A UP alliance sans Congress

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t seems to be all over barring the shouting for Congress in Uttar Pradesh. There is no official announcement yet, but Mayawati’s BSP and Akhilesh’s SP, along with Ajit Singh’s RLD, are reported to have finalised seat sharing for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. BSP and SP sources are showing the thumbs up, but for the enthusiasts of Opposition unity, it is appearing as a sore thumb as the Congress name is missing from the arrangement. They could at best leave two seats, Amethi and Rae Bareli, represented by Rahul and Sonia respectively, as before, which used to be the case even when there was no formal alliance with Congress.

The development gives further credence to the view that the main Dalit parties of UP have not been greatly enamoured of an anti-Modi alliance that includes Congress, whose leader Rahul Gandhi has been nursing the hope of playing the central role in any Opposition unity bid. More importantly, the two parties seem to believe that if Congress contests independently, it would be beneficial to the Dalit parties. They are also conscious of the fact that by joining the alliance Congress has very little to contribute to its success as the grand old party has been a spent force in the biggest, yet most crucial state in the Hindi heartland.

It was almost a foregone conclusion that SP and BSP would plough together for 2019, irrespective of who is in or out. The winnability of the combination was adequately established in the by-elections held earlier this year, which the two parties nearly swept to the bewilderment of BJP. All credit for this must go to Akhilesh Yadav, who has gone out of his way to accommodate the positions of Mayawati to ensure the defeat of BJP. Akhilesh believes that even if he has to concede some ground to keep BSP in the fold, it would be a sacrifice worth making as the ultimate objective is to prevent Modi from getting a second chance. But all eyes are now on what happens in states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and whether the two parties will agree to form a block with Congress in these states, where it is the more dominant force.

Significantly, Congress is still optimistic. Party sources indicate that the possibility of forming a grand alliance in UP is still open as the party believes it can go with any arrangement that does not specifically harm it as long as the splitting of anti-BJP votes can be avoided. Congress has already indicated that it will not allow the issue of leadership to become a deterrent to unity efforts, despite DMK’s Stalin announcing Rahul as the PM face. Most parties have a problem with Congress as they see it suffering from a hangover of the past.