Mahagathbandhan politics is one of the forms of democratic politics that has emerged in opposition to a dominant party. The term denotes all against one kind of mobilisation.
Here in Uttar Pradesh, what has emerged is not a Mahagathbandhan but a gathbandhan of two parties as the Congress was sidelined.
This is a unique situation in UP, where the Congress is fighting hard to make it a triangular contest. Recently, the party had declared Priyanka Gandhi as the general secretary in charge of UP east, the biggest sign that it is not backing down.
But why did the gathbandhan in UP form without the Congress and what will be its implications? Why both SP and BSP both seems sceptical about Congress? Is it only because Congress is weaker in Uttar Pradesh or there are other reasons for it?
Mayawati has learnt from her previous experience of alliance with Congress that the vote of the Congress is non-transferable. Either, it will go to the Congress or it will be divided between various parties.
The second reason for Mayawati’s hesitation is her fear psychosis about her Dalit vote bank. There may be a fear in her mind that if she joins hands with Congress, her Dalit base may shift to the Congress as they were with the Congress in Uttar Pradesh for a very long time and still have a soft corner for the party.
If they see Congress emerging as strong force during coming parliamentary election, a section of her voters may shift towards Congress.
Mayawati’s third problem is that by forming an alliance with Congress, she does not want to give a clear approval for Rahul Gandhi as prime ministerial candidate of a joint opposition.
Akhilesh Yadav realizes that without Mayawati and BSP, it would be difficult for the SP to perform well in 2019 election. So he is following the lead of Mayawati on including Congress.
While it’s true that Congress is not able to command an impressive vote bank in Uttar Pradesh anymore, and has been restricted to just 7-9 percent votes in various elections held recently, it is also true that slowly but surely, Congress and Rahul Gandhi are emerging main opposition against BJP and PM Narendra Modi.
And the Congress’s recent victory in three states - Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan – has strongly pushed this perception. In this situation, seeing Congress as potential political agency who can replace BJP from power, a section of minority (Muslim) votes may shift towards Congress. Muslim account for nearly 20 percent votes in Uttar Pradesh.
A section of Brahmins, which is a major caste group in Uttar Pradesh, also seems annoyed with the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government in Uttar Pradesh.
They are also annoyed with BJP government at the Centre due to its stand on SC/ST Act, which they find more oppressive than in the past under Congress and UPA regime and have constantly showed their unhappiness.
In this situation, a section of Brahmin voters in UP may like to search for a non-BJP option. The Sarvajan politics of BSP in which Brahmins found their prominence, has already lost its political impact. They don’t see Samajwadi Party as an alternative and in this situation, a section may return to the Congress.
The 10 percent reservation for the poor among general category introduced is not enough to fill the wounds of the upper caste, which has been the main vote bank of the Congress in the state in the past.
A section of Dalit voters who are annoyed with Mayawati may also see Congress as an alternative. Some of their votes may also go towards BJP because RSS is working hard to woo them at the grass root level.
In these circumstances, a section of Muslim, Brahmin and Dalits added with Congress remaining votes may improve Congress performances in Uttar Pradesh in the 2019 election. If this happens, Congress either may emerge major vote katwa (cut votes) for possible SP-BSP alliance or may acquire a respectable number of seats.
In both these situations, Congress may hamper the performance of SP-BSP alliance in Uttar Pradesh as gathbandhan left the Congress out.
(Badri Narayan is a Social Scientist at GB Pant Social Science Institute in Allahabad. Views are personal)