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SP-Cong Alliance Was Electoral Opportunism, Lacked Any Real Connect in UP

Defined by its catchy slogan 'UP ko yeh sath pasand hai'‎, the SP-Congress alliance was a deal which emerged not from any actual synthesis between the political workers on the ground, but sheer electoral opportunism conceived at the highest level of the two parties.

Pranshu Mishra | CNN-News18

Updated:March 12, 2017, 5:10 PM IST
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SP-Cong Alliance Was Electoral Opportunism, Lacked Any Real Connect in UP
File photo of Uttar Pradesh CM and SP national president Akhilesh Yadav (left) and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. (Photo: Network18)
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Lucknow: Elections in Uttar Pradesh are now over. BJP came out with flying colours, with a majority not even imagined by many of its top strategists. But while BJP dominated the electoral battle, the narrative would be incomplete without talking about the losers, in this case the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance.

Till recently, the alliance was being described as the biggest and most crucial political move this season.

Defined by its catchy slogan 'UP ko yeh sath pasand hai'‎, it was a deal which emerged not from any actual synthesis between the political workers on the ground, but sheer electoral opportunism conceived at the highest level of the two parties.

This was exposed by the‎ manner in which the alliance was rejected by people of Uttar Pradesh.

On the one hand of this alliance was UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, also SP national president. On the other was Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi together with his sister Priyanka Gandhi.‎ Priyanka was projected as the architect of this alliance. Playing the role of emissaries between the two sides were poll strategists like Prashant Kishor.

The question which arose then and is more important now is this: why was Akhilesh so eager for the alliance, despite opposition from party patriarch and his father Mulayam Singh Yadav? SP Sources say that sometime around September 2016, battered by an internal feud within the party, Akhilesh and his closest political advisor, uncle and Rajya Sabha MP Ram Gopal Yadav, started considering the idea of having an alliance which could ensure a second term in power for the then chief minister. Senior leaders within the party, who were also worst critics of Akhilesh, got the sense of these intentions which brought the situation to a head.

ALSO READ: Congress Returns to Power in Punjab, SAD-BJP Lose Badly

By Mid- December 2016, as the power struggle within the SP intensified, there was no doubt left that Akhilesh was not just planning a coup against his own father and uncle, but also warming up to the idea of a pre-poll alliance with 'secular' parties including the Congress and the RLD.

As the party feud unfolded within the SP, there was change in Congress' behaviour. The party's slogan, '27 Saal UP Behal', went out of vogue. The tone of senior leaders, from party general secretary and UP incharge, Gulam Nabi Azad, to party state president Raj Babbar, also changed.

Babbar, while talking to CNN-News18, even praised Samajwadi party. “SP is a secular party and all secular forces need to work together against the BJP,” he had said.

CNN-News18 first broke the news that the Congress and the SP had worked out an alliance in mid-December 2016. At this time, Akhilesh was working to get a firm grip on his party. Finally, on January 2nd, at a hurriedly called national convention of the SP Mulayam Singh was ousted from the post of national president and appointed Akhilesh as the new president of the party.

Days following the move saw hectic parleys for the execution of the alliance. What started with offer of just 75-80 seats to the Congress, soon rose up to more than 100 seats. This, for a party which till recently was seen as virtually non-existent in the political arena of Uttar Pradesh.

ALSO READ: Congress is Just a Crowd Around a Fading Dynasty, Says FM Arun Jaitley

The obvious question here is why Akhilesh had been so benevolent? So liberal for the party which not only had no significant clout in UP but also had been one of the worst critics of the Samajwadi party and its politics for long.

Also, how and why did Akhilesh overlook the fact that 'Anti-Congressism' had been in the DNA of the socialist politics, right since ‎the days of emergency? After all, Mulayam had faced all odds fighting the Congress, while he tirelessly tried to build the SP in the 80s and the 90s.

Sources attribute it to Akhilesh's nervousness. Nervousness stemming from the fact that his own party was deeply divided. Some of Akhilesh's close associates have indicated that it was also partly because of his desire to script a new political narrative. A narrative which was defined by opposing the far bigger political threat, a new aggressive BJP under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah.

For the Congress, it was however a reason to smile. If sources are to be believed despite some serious efforts for political assertion in the state in the initial days of build up to the elections, Congress was always keen for an alliance. Many say the first choice was the BSP. But with BSP showing no interest, they shifted to the SP.

But despite the alliance being worked out and being projected as ‘secular’ to galvanise the minority vote bank, the cracks in it were clearly visible. With SP-Congress candidates locking horns against each other on 22 seats, including 4 in Amethi and Raebareli, there was no doubt that at the ground level, the alliance had failed to materialise.

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So while Akhilesh went campaigning for Gayatri Prajapati in Amethi, Rahul was also seen seeking votes for Amita Singh on the same seat. Difference of opinion was also reflected in the joint press conferences held by Rahul and Akhilesh.

While there was no clear reply despite repeated questions about longevity of the alliance, Rahul further embarrassed Akhilesh by giving a certificate of credibility to BSP and its president Mayawati.

“BSP and Mayawatiji's ideology is not a threat to the nation, like that of BJP and RSS,” Rahul had said.

Clearly, despite being on the same boat, SP and Congress seem to be testing different waters. Brought together only by their immediate concern to stop BJP from winning Uttar Pradesh.

It was this political opportunism, lack of any real inner connect and the fact that alliance only went on to help BJP by ensuring division of minority votes‎, that assisted BJP's spectacular success and near wipeout of the Congress and leaving the SP almost shattered. While Akhilesh's opponents in the SP have already started questioning the rationale behind the alliance, Akhilesh himself is not ready to call off the alliance.

ALSO READ: Congress Kept Priyanka Out of UP, the Alliance Paid for it Dearly

| Edited by: Bijaya Das
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