UP alliance: Critical for BJP, Congress

The contours of political alignments for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in UP have emerged clearly, with Mayawati’s SP and Akhilesh Yadav’s BSP announcing their alliance in principle, keeping Congress out of the picture. The division of seats will be announced only on January 15, the birthday of the BSP supremo, which also happens to be important for Akhilesh as it is the birthday of his wife Dimple, a rising star in SP.

The SP chief is slated to call on Mayawati to greet her on the important day and both parties will make a splash of their ‘grand’ alliance. As a continuing courtesy, the alliance is expected to leave Amethi and Raebereli for Rahul and Sonia. 

While it is obvious that Congress is out of the equation, the SP-BSP alliance may try to rope in some of the smaller parties, including Nishad Party and the Krishna Patel faction of Apna Dal, to boost its prospects. Even without a formal alliance with Ajit Singh’s RLD, the Samajwadi parties have decided to leave out one seat for him. The parties were in alliance with RLD in the by-elections, which saw BJP take a severe blow. 

Full credit for the SP-BSP alliance must go to Akhilesh Yadav, who has learnt his lessons from the past, when wrong alliances and avoidable split of the Dalit votes either helped other parties or proved detrimental to his own party. So he has gone out of his way to tow Mayawati’s line and play the junior partner. Although the initial understanding between the two parties is to contest an equal number of seats, Akhilesh is said to be inclined to let Mayawati have a couple of more seats. Both parties have also realised that they have nothing much to gain from associating with Congress, as the grand old party’s influence is limited to certain pockets and commands no more than 10 per cent of the vote share. 

Congress has sought to create the impression that it never expected itself to be in the UP alliance and there is no disappointment. There has been an issue with the transferability of Congress votes. It has been found that whenever SP and BSP have been in alliance with Congress, while wholesale transfer of Dalit votes to Congress happened, the reverse was never true. In such situations, the Congress votes, mostly belonging to the upper castes, have been found to flow towards the BJP. 

Congress lost the UP game when it failed to recognise Mayawati’s keenness to have an ‘honourable’ package in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh as part of a composite deal. And she had made it quite plain that there is no UP-only alliance. But more than the Congress, the development should unsettle the BJP. SP and BSP singing together will surely be no music to the ears of the ruling party, which will have a daunting task in UP.