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Why the Infighting in Samajwadi Party Has Got the BJP Worried

Sumit Pande | CNN-News18

First published: October 19, 2016, 8:24 AM IST | Updated: 3 days ago
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Why the Infighting in Samajwadi Party Has Got the BJP Worried
File Photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP Chief Amit Shah (PTI)

Lucknow: In an informal interaction with reporters last week, a top BJP leader closely monitoring party's campaign in Uttar Pradesh maintained that despite the war within, "Samajwadi Party led by Mulayam Singh Yadav remains a force to reckon with".

It's difficult to say whether the assertion by the BJP leader was an assessment based on ground feedback or wishful thinking. But there are signs that the implosion within the ruling Samajwadi Party and the chacha-bhatija fight has got the BJP worried.

Any polarisation in UP on communal lines, or even otherwise, generally tends to suit both BJP and SP - the two poles which cater to mutually exclusive constituencies. If one pole in this binary gets weakened, it does not auger well for the other pole.

Ahead of the elections, BJP has started to test waters on Ram Temple and Uniform Civil Code. Of the three core issues which gave the party a distinct identify during formative years, it seems Article 370 has been temporarily replaced by surgical strikes for now.

It is out of the this turmoil in the late eighties and early nineties that Mulayam Singh earned the sobriquet Maulana Mulayam. SP under Akhilesh has made development its calling card. This new-SP allocates funds for theme park in Ayodhya and buffets it with a hike in remuneration for Madarsa teachers. The new SP is against the merger of Mukhtar Ansari's Quami Ekta Dal. Somehow it does not complete the SP- BJP binary.

Sensing an opening, Mayawati has made decisive moves to wean away a chunk of SP's core constituency: the Muslims. It is reflected both in her selection of candidates and rhetoric. The party has already given tickets to more than a hundred Muslim candidates. From politicisation of surgical strikes to PM's Vijayadashmi visit to Lucknow, the BSP chief has been most vocal and prompt in attacking the BJP, attempting to appropriate the non-BJP space in the state.

A senior RSS leader active in the state says the social leadership among Muslims seems to be veering towards giving BSP a chance. But "Mulayam Singh continues to hold influence over a large section of the masses who still see in the SP patriarch an ally of many decades".

It is this division in the minority votes the BJP seems to be banking upon even as it tries to put together a larger non-Yadav-OBC and upper caste combination.

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