Test for SP-BSP Alliance

SP-BSP alliance depends on Mayawati’s election to Rajya Sabha taking place in 2018

By Asit Manohar

After the poll rout faced by all opponents in Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections, speculation is rife for Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party forging alliance in 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Reason behind this assertion given by poll pundits are lack of representation by both the regional parties in UP assembly, Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. In assembly the SP has 47 representatives while in Lok Sabha it has only five seats. Similarly, BSP has 19 seats while in the Lok Sabha it doesn’t have any representative. In Rajya Sabha too, these parties are expected to lose its seats in next five years as BJP alliance has won 325 seats — more than three quarters — in the UP assembly.

In 2018 Rajya Sabha polls, 10 members would be completing their tenure of six years out of which six are from the SP while two from the BSP and one each from the BJP and the Indian National Congress. As per the Rajya Sabha arithmetic, a winning candidate would require 37 first priority votes which mean SP would be able to win one seat for sure while BJP would win minimum of 8 Rajya Sabha seats. Since, BSP has only 19 seats, it won’t be able to win even a single seat on its own. However, if Congress-SP-BSP joins hands, they would together win an additional seat. Otherwise, BJP’s ninth candidate would win on the basis of second priority votes.

If we look at the prominent figures that would be completing their tenure in the Upper House, BSP-SP coming together looks possible because one of the prominent leaders completing their Rajya Sabha term is BSP chief Mayawati. She won’t take any chance to lose her command into the power corridors. Apart from Mayawati in BSP, Samajwadi leaders completing their Council of States term are Naresh Agrawal, Kiranmay Nanda and Jaya Bachchan while in Congress it’s their UP face Pramod Tiwari. Since, Mayawati won’t support any of the SP or Congress leader’s bid to the Upper House as she himself would be interested for next term, only option left for the SP-Congress combine is to lend its support to BSP chief Mayawati and open a channel of discussion for forging an alliance in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Whether Mayawati accepts this SP-Congress offer or decides to contest 2019 Lok Sabha polls, New Delhi-based political commentator Awadhesh Kumar said, “Mayawati may accept the SP-Congress support if it is offered. However, it won’t be an assurance that she would forge alliance with SP-Congress combine in 2019.” Elaborating upon the reason for Mayawati not going with SP or Congress Awadhesh said, “Mayawati’s BSP had been in alliance with both Congress and SP but her experience in those alliances weren’t soothing. Mayawati openly accused Congress that BSP vote bank got transferred to the Congress party but Congress voters don’t align with the BSP. On SP-BSP alliance, Mayawati and her loyal support base have a feeling that SP is a anti-Dalit party. Hence, if they go with either Congress or SP, it won’t benefit BSP but to other alliance partners. But, much has happened post those alliances that Mayawati has been vocal about.”

Though, Mayawati still holds around 22 percent of the vote share into the UP electorates, her confidence has reached nadir as she has been decimated in two successive polls in 2014 and 2017. Hence, she can’t afford to lose again into 2019 Lok Sabha elections, especially when she has sensed that BJP is going from strong to stronger. The ‘party with difference’ has not only consolidated its Forward Caste vote bank, but has united a big number of other than Yadav Other Backward Castes (OBCs) and Most Backward Caste (MBC) behind BJP. In such a scenario, the BJP is standing at a strong vote base of more than 40 percent, which is enough to repeat its 2014 Lok Sabha performance in 2019 too. Since, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is no more in driving seat in the party and Akhilesh Yadav has been sending fillers to the BSP. Chances of SP-Congress combine helping Mayawati garner next Rajya Sabha term in 2018 can’t be ruled out.

On why Mayawati would accept SP-Congress support if offered Awadhesh Kumar explained, “A regional leader like Mayawati runs its party on an aura which they thrive from the power corridors. Hence, Mayawati getting next term in Rajya Sabha becomes important for her to keep her party intact. She should, and I think would, accept the SP-Congress support if offered because she knows that SP-BSP alliance had dislodged BJP from the Lucknow power corridors earlier too. But, to make this happen both SP and BSP will have to scale down from their current position. They need to learn from Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar in this regard.”

However, it won’t be easy for the Congress party to keep the ‘UP grand alliance’ floating in 2019 on state levels only. If Mayawati comes with the ‘grand alliance’, she would ask seats in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, which might not go down well with the grand old party. If Congress fails to inculcate Mayawati in these states, it may happen that SP-BSP would dump Congress in Uttar Pradesh and in such a scenario, regional satraps like Mamata Banerjee, Navin Patnaik, Om Prakash Chautala, Ajit Singh, Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar may coin their idea of separate front, which they tried unsuccessfully after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Therefore, 2018 Rajya Sabha polls would open various windows of opportunities for the anti-BJP leaders as they are in better position to hard press Congress party. But, to make this happen, Mayawati’s election to Rajya Sabha in 2018 holds key.