OPINION | Akhilesh-Mayawati Mahagathbandhan: Why 2019 is Different From 1993
Obvious questions are being asked whether the bonhomie of the top leaders will percolate to the ground level as the cadre of both parties were at each other’s throat for the last 25 years.
File photo of Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav with BSP supremo Mayawati. (Image: News18)
Chequered history has come to haunt the alliance forged by the Bahujan Samaj Party with once-arch-rival Samajwadi Party to checkmate the BJP in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. This is the third pre-poll alliance by the BSP — the first in 1993 with the SP and later in 1996 with the Congress for UP Assembly elections. This is the first pre-poll alliance it has struck for Lok Sabha polls.
Both the parties realise that they have not allied from the position of strength and it’s an alliance for their survival in politics.
Mayawati said she has buried the hatchet and is prioritising national interest, putting behind the guest house incident of June 1995. Akhilesh Yadav reciprocated, saying any disrespect for Mayawati would be insulting him as well.
Obvious questions are being asked whether the bonhomie of the top leaders will percolate to the ground level as the cadre of both parties were at each other’s throat for the last 25 years. Both parties carved out a niche for themselves by pursuing strident caste-based identity politics and later graduated to inclusive politics. Will they revert to the identity politics to consolidate Dalits and OBCs?
Political scientist and author Dr AK Verma maintains that the model of SP-BSP alliance is different from 1993. “The BSP of 1993 had the background support of the BAMCEF (Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation). Later, DS 4 (Dalit Sshoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti) was also added. It was a class movement where SCs and OBCs were together. The slogan of the alliance in 1993 was ‘Mile Mulayam-Kanshi Ram, Havaa Ho Gaye Jai Sriram’. And instead of animosity, there was deep bonding and togetherness among the two groups.”
Verma maintains that the guest house episode “marked a paradigm shift after which Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati went on different political trajectories, representing OBCs and Scheduled Caste, respectively”. The big question is whether the bonhomie of the top leaders of the SP and BSP will reach the ground level. This election is for the Lok Sabha and voters are mature enough to see the difference between parliamentary and Assembly elections.
“This alliance would have been devastating had it been for the assembly elections. It’s for the Lok Sabha so Akhilesh Yadav projected Mayawati for the top job of the country and left the leadership issue for UP open,” said Verma, adding, “It was Akhilesh’s political compulsion to project Mayawati for prime minister if he has to sustain the alliance for future elections.”
The political analyst also believes that much water has flown down the Ganges since 1993 and both parties have learnt the art of realpolitik in the last three decades.
“The first alliance of SP-BSP in 1993 was a political experiment and both parties were greenhorns. Back then, they were shooting in the dark and now they have experience of governance. The hostility among the Yadavs and Dalits in rural hinterland is an old dictum. Presently, both Dalits and OBCs, including Yadavs, are deprived and subjugated,” said Professor Vivek Kumar, head of the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, School of Social Sciences, JNU.
“It’s a western concept to suggest that the BSP is pursuing identity politics. The Dalits can only pursue identity politics as for them the issue is existence rather than the identity. The alliance is to tell the voters that they are worthy to govern and rule. They will have to establish that they are also development-oriented along with along with fulfilling the objectives of social justice,” said Prof Kumar.
Challenges Before the BJP
The BJP would no longer get the benefit of division of votes and reap rich political dividends as it got in 2014 Lok Sabha elections and later in UP polls. The coming together of the SP and BSP also poses a challenge before the BJP to prevent the arithmetic from turning into chemistry and to prevent the non-Jatavs, who had overwhelmingly voted for the BJP in 2014 and 2017 elections, from returning to the BSP fold.
The BJP would also do well to widen the social and political fault-lines between the SP and BSP. “Mayawati referred to the infamous state guest house incident of June 2, 1995 at Lucknow, but stopped short of saying that the BSP has forgotten the incident or that it was unfortunate,” said a BJP leader, not seemingly perturbed by the alliance.
“We will go to the people on the basis of our governments at the Centre and in UP to achieve the target of 73+ plus seats in the state. The people of UP saw the team of ‘do ladke’ — Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi — in 2017. Both had pledged to continue the alliance in Lok Sabha elections. History is being repeated. SP and BSP are saying the same thing that their alliance will last long and that they will fight together in 2022 Assembly elections,” said Vijay Bahadur Pathak, general secretary of the BJP.
“The people of UP have seen such alliances and they will reject the SP-BSP tie-up which is banking on the sole negative agenda of preventing Narendra Modi from becoming the prime minister in May 2019,” Pathak added.
According to Vivek Kumar, the SP-BSP alliance will prove to be the death knell for the BJP, which, he said, is also evident from the speeches of top BJP leaders during the party’s national convention in Delhi on Sunday. “Top BJP leaders like Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Arun Jaitely and Nitin Gadkari, targeted the SP-BSP alliance,” said Vivek Kumar, adding “Amit Shah went to the extent of saying `we have not lost ground. We should not give up hope’.”
(Author is a senior journalist. Views are personal)
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