Once-arch rivals Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) on Saturday in joint press conference in Lucknow announced their tie-up in Uttar Pradesh for the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha polls, sharing 38 seats each and keeping the Congress "out of the alliance". However, they also announced that they had left the Rae Bareli and Amethi seats for Congress.
Reacting to the why Congress is not part of alliance in the Uttar Pradesh, BSP supremo Mayawati said that both Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress had indulged in corruption. "We haven't included Congress in our alliance because scams in defence deals happened under both Congress and BJP. Congress lost power due to Bofors and BJP will face ouster because of Rafale scam. Votes don't transfer when allying with Congress, they go to BJP instead, hence we're not including it in our alliance," she said, citing past instances.
Drawing further parallels, Mayawati said Congress had imposed the Emergency while the BJP was responsible for an ‘undeclared Emergency’ in the country..
Newsclick asked political analysts why BSP-SP had distanced themselves from Congress, with quite a few of them saying that this would hardly impact Congress.
Speaking with Newsclick, Abhay Kumar Dubey, a political commentator, said, “I feel that if Congress is out of the SP-BSP alliance, it will be easier for it to defeat BJP. Had Congress been part of the alliance, whatever polarisation BJP planned to do against the alliance would have ultimately given an advantage to Congress. Now, one thing is clear, that wherever Congress contests, it would cut BJP votes, not the alliance’s.”
Dubey added that election strategy sometimes worked in very strange ways, and in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections such an alliance would be appreciated. “Supporters of Congress hardly agree to vote BSP and SP, but if Congress works under the same alliance, then it would have to fight on only a few seats. During the press conference, SP-BSP said they had left two seats -- Rae Bareli and Amethi -- for Congress. Congress would have managed hardly 10 seats if they were part of alliance, but now they can fight more than 10 seats,” he said, adding that. Congress was a marginal player in Uttar Pradesh and “we should not forget that Congress is not in the same condition as they were in 2009, and will try to contest over 30-35 seats. If they manage to grab 10 seats, then it would really affect BJP, as the SP-BSP alliance will manage to snatch 40 seats from saffron party."
When asked how it this alliance would impact Congress, Hilal Ahmed, Associate Professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, told Newsclick, "The presence of Congress is negligible. They are not an important force as many of leaders who were previously associated with Congress are now part of SP and BSP. So, thinking of Congress as an independent entity would be misleading. In terms of electoral arithmetic, this alliance is going to perform better. The second aspect which is more political now is what kind of narrative the SP-BSP alliance going to produce. Is there anything new from this alliance or it is just and alternative alliance? The same applies to Congress as well, because they also need to counter the discourse with regard to 2019. So, in terms of political narrative, the larger point is to oppose Narendra Modi, but on what sort of grounds? The grounds are very similar for them.”
When asked about the sizeable Muslims votes, Hilal Ahmed said, "For this my answer is based on the survey we have been doing since a long time that there is no such thing as a ‘Muslim vote bank’. So, I don't see Muslims as a consolidated vote bank being an important issue with the regard to this alliance. But there is symbolism involved in this alliance. The manner in which Muslim votes as an entity are presented makes sense. The alliance is trying to constitute a winnable configuration in which they assume Yadav, Dalit and Muslim votes would come together and would defeat the upper caste vote bank of BJP.”
He said it was established through their survey that voters do not entirely consider caste and religion at the end of the day. He, however, felt that BJP would suffer the most by the triangular contest.
On the issue of transfer by Congress, Samajwadi Party (SP) spokesperson, Abdul Hafiz Gandhi told Newsclick, "The alliance of SP-BSP is enough to defeat BJP. Congress has not been able to transfer its vote share. So, it's always better that regional parties capable of transferring their votes, come together in Uttar Pradesh. The SP-SP is a natural alliance."
Bitter rivals SP and BSP have joined hands after 24 years. Following that, the seat-sharing formula for the upcoming elections was announced, which sees SP and BSP fighting in 38 seats each in the 80 Lok Sabha seats. Out of the remaining four seats, the gathbandhan has set aside two for their allies (not yet disclosed), while they have decided to not fight in the other two (Rae Bareli and Amethi), leaving them vacant for the Congress.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had won 71 seats in Uttar Pradesh while its ally Apna Dal, bagged two. The Samajwadi Party won five seats and the Congress two, while the BSP could not open its account.