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UP: Are Cracks Showing in RLD's Alliance With SP?

Concerns over past “bitterness” over seat-sharing and BJP’s offer of an olive branch to Jayant Chaudhary are being seen as a threat to the alliance.
SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary. Image Courtesy: Twitter/@yadavakhilesh

SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary. Image Courtesy: Twitter/@yadavakhilesh

Lucknow: The Samajwadi Party (SP) has been, on the one hand, trying to unite regional parties in Uttar Pradesh and bring them under one umbrella against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance at the Centre ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha election, but on the other, there is a buzz about it parting ways with a key alliance partner – the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD). SP had contested the Assembly polls with RLD as an ally.

However, of late, concerns are growing over the survival of the SP-RLD alliance, as tensions between the two parties is said to be simmering. This has reportedly become a serious worry for many since it may impact the 2024 general election outcome in UP, which has 80 Lok Sabha seats. In western UP, such a ‘split’ is likely to go in favour of the ruling BJP. As per sources close to the developments, both SP and RLD may contest independently in the elections.

Sniffing an opportunity in the situation, BJP has reportedly extended an olive branch to RLD, a predominantly jat-dominated organisation with significant influence in the western region, asking its president Jayant Chaudhary to join the saffron party. The BJP appears to be targeting a clean sweep in the jat-dominated western region in the Lok Sabha elections.

Jayant is 'welcome' to join BJP, Bhupendra Chaudhary, president of the UP BJP and a native of the state's western region, told reporters recently. "We will welcome him (Jayant) if he wants to join us and work under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi," he added.

However, RLD's Uttar Pradesh president Ramashish Rai has made it clear that he had no intentions of joining the BJP-led NDA but added that in politics, “anything is possible.”

"We forfeited our seats in the recent Assembly elections, and as a result, we lost our state party registration. This time, we would like to run on 12 seats because we have a sizable presence in Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Amroha, Bijnor, Nagina, Meerut, Mathura, Hathras and Fatehpur," he told NewsClick.

Rai claimed that RLD’s support base had grown and that party leader Jayant Chaudhary was making a strong effort to make up lost ground. Sources within the party confirmed that RLD was also “dissatisfied” with the SP's anti-Congress stance.

The perceived “deepening divisions” between the two parties are, therefore, a significant cause for worry for Opposition unity. Sources requesting anonymity told NewsClick that the RLD was disappointed with the SP's “enemy of Congress” stance, which, they claimed, was a critical reason for the “differences”.

The RLD said it wanted to recapture its status as a state-level party. In the 2019 Lok Sabha surveys, the party had fought on three seats, but didn't win any.

Senior journalist Syed Qasim told NewsClick that RLD had entered the electoral fight with SP in the 2022 Assembly elections, however, the outcome did not go in its favour. In such a circumstance, the ties between RLD and SP “soured”. He said the manner in which seat-sharing will be discussed for the 2024 elections could shape “new political alignments”. According to him, the jat community heads in western UP feel that it would be better for RKD to ally with BJP rather than SP.

An SP leader requesting anonymity told NewsClick that RLD was “adamant” on 12 Lok Sabha seats, but Akhilesh Yadav was not in the mood to give more than five seats. In the 2019 general elections, RLD got three seats in the SP-BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) alliance -- Baghpat, Mathura and Muzaffarnagar. However, RLD could not win even one seat. Jayant Chaudhary contested in Mathura-Baghpat and late Chaudhary Ajit Singh contested in Muzaffarnagar, but could not win. 

SP and RLD fought the 2022 Assembly elections in alliance, but failed to prevent BJP’s return to power in Uttar Pradesh. The SP-RLD alliance fell short of expectations, winning only a little over 100 seats. The BJP secured 255 seats and formed the government once again under the leadership of Yogi Adityanath. The SP had then provided 33 seats to RLD, which  could only win eight.

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