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Post SP's Spectacular Win in UP Bypolls, Will 'Natural Alliance' of SP-BSP Come Together Again in 2019?

Hours after defeating BJP in its own den by snatching Gorakhpur and Phulpur Assembly constituencies, Samajwadi Party president not only thanked BSP chief Mayawati for her support in the UP bypolls but drove down to her residence to express gratitude in person.

Pranshu Mishra | CNN-News18

Updated:March 15, 2018, 12:27 PM IST
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Post SP's Spectacular Win in UP Bypolls, Will 'Natural Alliance' of SP-BSP Come Together Again in 2019?
File photos of BSP chief Mayawati and Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav.
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Lucknow: Hours after defeating BJP in its own den by snatching Gorakhpur and Phulpur Assembly constituencies, Samajwadi Party president not only thanked BSP chief Mayawati for her support in the UP bypolls but drove down to her residence to express gratitude in person.

An hour-long meeting that followed has given rise to speculation about a possible SP-BSP understanding ahead of 2019 polls.

Some say, that the two form a ‘natural alliance’ of Dalits and Backwards. The question being asked in political circles is if this is really a natural alliance? Given the history and individual ambitions of the two leaders and established unpredictability of Mayawati, the road ahead seems tough.

The biggest challenge will be to figure out who is the numero uno of the two: Mayawati or Akhilesh.
So far, Akhilesh has been alert to keep Mayawati in good humour. He thanked the BSP chief for her party's valuable support that helped SP script a spectacular win. But will Mayawati be content with this? Even in the SP's victory, it’s Behenji who has proved that she has the capacity to transfer the votes. Thus, making her the most sought out ally against the BJP ahead of 2019 polls, at least in Uttar Pradesh.

While Akhilesh, so far, has not revealed his national ambitions, Mayawati has in the past questioned why can’t a “Dalit ki beti” be Prime Minister. It remains to be seen what role Mayawati has in mind with respect to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in a scenario where BJP/NDA is not in a position to form the government. Her calculation in that regard will be a crucial deciding factor as far as her approach towards SP or any possibly ally, say, Congress is concerned.

Another roadblock will be seat sharing. Despite being a national party, BSP, much like the Samajwadi party has maximum footprint only in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Seat sharing between any two parties is always a challenge. Will the two leaders be generous enough to accommodate the competing demands of each other.

For a party not contesting and in a seat-sharing agreement, it is also an admission of its shrinking political space in the region. Being predominantly caste-based parties, there is always this fear of the cadre switching loyalties. Will Akhilesh and, in particluar, Mayawati be able to overcome this possible threat?

For the moment, fear of a bigger political enemy might have forced re-conciliation on part of the two, the bigger arena of interest for both is 2022 Assembly polls. It remains to be seen if the new found bonhomie will continue and exist beyond 2019? As Both Mayawati and Akhilesh consider themselves as a potential contender for post of chief Minister, any future strategy will also be formulated keeping 2022 in mind.

One big reason which Mayawati has often sighted in the past to justify her 'no' to alliance politics is the inability of others to transfer vote in BSP's favour. Can Akhilesh ensure that BSP candidates will actually get SP's core Yadav vote support in 2019? Going by the established faultlines between the Yadavs and Dalits, it does look daunting. Historically, for Backwards, especially the Yadavs and Kurmis, BJP has been the second best choice whenever the SP is not in the fray.

Another big option, which insiders in the BSP talk about, is the 'Congress factor'. Congress might have lost its deposits in UP bypolls, but in 2019 general elections it will be the key contender against the BJP. With strong presence across several states, right from North to south, will not an alliance with Congress give Mayawati a larger pan India footprint.

Accommodating Congress in UP and ensuring substantial seat sharing in other states, will also help in projecting Mayawati as a Dalit leader of stature. Depending upon numbers post elections, BSP chief can also then reflect upon the possibilities ahead. A lot in this regard, however, depends upon how pragmatic Congress president Rahul Gandhi can be. Right projection of Mayawati can well translate into galvanising Dalits towards Congress and its alliance on a pan-India level.

BSP-SP alone can ensure polarisation of large chunk of Dalit, Backward and Minority vote share, becoming a formidable opposition to BJP at least on 80 seats of Lok Sabha from UP. But looking at the national perspective, if a larger UPA-like alliance is formulated, with Congress playing a key role, then both the regional parties will also have to accommodate the Congress in their home state. Will the regional players be ready to give leverage to Congress party at their own cost? And if not, then will not Congress' independent intervention lead to division of non-BJP votes.

No doubt, now is the time to celebrate for both Akhilesh and Mayawati, but the road ahead is not easy. In BJP's loss it’s not just the caste calculations, but also the building up of anger against unfulfilled promises and increasing agrarian unrest.

BJP, no doubt, is going to look into these aspects. It’s also not naive to the fact that opposition is likely to unite ahead of 2019 polls.

So though defeated in these bypolls, BJP has time to prepare for the challenges ahead. For Akhilesh and Mayawati, it will be a challenge balancing their political space, personal agendas and future politics.
| Edited by: Ashutosh Tripathi
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