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Mayawati-Akhilesh Pact Can Turn Poll Maths On Its Head in Caste-Crazy Uttar Pradesh

Coming together of the Jatav and Yadav vote banks will mark a new beginning in UP politics, say experts.

Pranshu Mishra | CNN-News18

Updated:March 6, 2018, 9:06 AM IST
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Mayawati-Akhilesh Pact Can Turn Poll Maths On Its Head in Caste-Crazy Uttar Pradesh
File photos of BSP chief Mayawati and Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav.
Lucknow: The announcement of an electoral understanding between BSP and the Samajwadi Party for two crucial bypolls jolted the political circles into action on a lazy Sunday.

After all, it’s not just any two political parties. These are two long-term rivals and regional heavyweights whose partnership will reshape electoral arithmetic in a state where people vote their caste more than they cast their vote.

This alliance — bringing together Dalit and Backward voters — was envisaged by BSP founder Kanshi Ram and Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav 25 years ago.

The two regional satraps had joined hands in the 1993 Assembly elections. It was a masterstroke that catapulted them into power, but the bonhomie didn’t last long. It fell apart following an unfortunate attack on Kanshi Ram’s protégé Mayawati at a state guesthouse in Lucknow in 1995.

The guesthouse case, as it infamously came to be known, was the moment when the two parties emerged as arch-rivals.

Mayawati later turned the entire Dalit politics on its head when she forged an alliance with the upper castes ahead of 2007 Assembly elections. The slogan of Tilak, Taraju, Talwar; inko maro joote chaar — a reference to Brahmins, Baniyas and Thakurs — was changed to Brahmin shankh bajayega, hathi aage jayega (Brahmins will blow the conch and the elephant, BSP’s symbol, will march on).

The formula might have brought Mayawati to power, but faultlines emerged soon. Since then, there has been a lot of churning in UP politics. Mayawati was displace by Akhilesh Yadav, the state’s youngest CM, in 2012.

The state’s 25-year swing between the SP and the BSP ended last year when the BJP swept to power with 312 seats in the 403-member Assembly. The Samajwadi Party was reduced to 47 seats, while the BSP bagged a paltry 19.

It this dominance of the BJP and increasing upper caste assertion under it that has now forced the SP and BSP to do a strategic re-think.

Prashant Trivedi, assistant professor at Lucknow-based Giri Institute of Social Studies, says, “It’s not just the electoral opportunism which is forcing SP-BSP to come closer. There is also increasing pressure from their core vote-bank, which is eager for a larger caste alliance.”

In Uttar Pradesh, Backward castes constitute around 52 percent of the population, while the Dalit population is estimated to be around 22 percent. Yadavs alone constitute around 12 percent of Backward vote share.

“If the BSP and the SP are able to bring their core Jatav and Yadav vote banks together in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha bypolls, along with the Muslim vote bank, it will be a big achievement, marking a new beginning in caste re-alignment,” says Trivedi.

Sources say the bypoll bonhomie between the two parties will continue even for the March 23 elections to 10 Rajya Seats from the state.

Samajwadi Party MLC and Akhilesh confidant Sunil Singh Yadav said, “Our party will definitely reciprocate to the goodwill gesture by the BSP in upcoming elections to the Rajya Sabha and the Vidhan Parishad.”

Considering their current strength in the Assembly, the BSP will have to depend on 14 votes from the SP if it wants to send its candidate to the Upper House of Parliament.
Sources in the BSP say party chief Mayawati is herself a potential candidate. If the SP with 14 spare votes and the Congress with six extend support, the BSP with 19 of its MLAs will be in a position to secure the Rajya Sabha seat.

The BJP, however, says it’s not worried. “First of all, it’s still not clear whether there is actually any alliance between the BSP and the SP or if it's just some understanding. Secondly, both the BSP and the SP are fighting to save their existence. The people will vote for development politics and not caste equations,” says BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi.

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| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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