The Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party have kept the Congress out of a grand alliance that all set to come up in Uttar Pradesh as its presence in the fray separately tends to prevent the element of polarization of votes, thus providing ample space to SP-BSP in making the upcoming general elections caste-centric.
In an election, which will be highly polarized, the mobilisation of opposition parties against the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party had always suited the narrative and electoral strategy of the BJP as votes of majority Hindu community get polarized in its favour and other get split. If India’s grand old party Congress remains in the fray without being part of having a pre-poll alliance with the SP and BSP, the two key players in Uttar Pradesh’s politics, it would prove beneficial to the opposition alliance.
It seems all three players in the opposition camp in the politically sensitive state of Uttar Pradesh are playing their cards close to their chest. Like two previous parliamentary by-elections in UP held few months back where Congress deliberately kept itself out of the SP-BSP electoral understanding, the same position is maintained in 2019 Lok Sabha elections and SP-BSP put up their candidates tactically in about a dozen seats where the Congress has a strong following, it might alter the state politics drastically giving a severe jolt to the BJP because in that situation the caste based vote bank of SP and BSP would not split and Congress would take away a sizeable section of upper caste Hindu votes that generally goes to the BJP as it had happened in the previous two parliamentary by polls.
For example, in Kanpur, Congress has a strong candidate named former union minister Sri Prakash Jaiswal. If the combine of SP-BSP field a Muslim candidate against Jaiswal, he would certainly dent the prospects of the Congress candidate and thus throw the seat to the BJP’s kitty. However, in case of a triangular contest, a candidate from upper caste would adversely impact the BJP’s candidate giving a clear edge to the Congress. The similar situation exists in about a dozen of parliamentary seats.
An analysis of previous assembly elections in UP reflects that the SP and BSP would have retained many seats if the Congress would not have been in alliance with the SP. With its shrinking but a small and loyal vote base, the Congress could play a significant role to bolster the prospects of anti-BJP camp and win a dignified number of seats for itself. If there is any state which has the potential of Congress regaining its glory that is Uttar Pradesh provided the party formulates a two-pronged electoral strategy helping the anti-BJP camp at one time and getting their support for its candidates at the same time.
Despite existential crisis, the Congress has a less than 10 percent vote share in the Uttar Pradesh, which is primarily amongst the upper caste and urban electorate. But quite unlike the BSP and the SP, which have niche caste vote banks, this amorphous vote of the Congress is non-transferable in alliance with any of the non-BJP parties. Precisely for that reason the SP and BSP which are primarily low caste and rural based parties don’t want Congress as part of their alliance. In the event of Congress joining an alliance of SP and BSP the loyal vote of the party would most likely shift to the BJP as it had happened whenever Congress had struck alliance with either SP or BSP. Had Congress not fielded a Brahmin candidate in Phulpur parliamentary by poll, the Brahmin votes could have gone to the BJP. The SP candidate won in the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha by election by a margin of almost equal to the votes Congress had polled.
It seems the idea of a grand alliance without Congress is giving relevance to the Congress which is turned into irrelevance in Uttar Pradesh where it had last government in 1989 when Narayan Dutt Tiwari was its last chief minister. But under the new emerging political scenario, a kind of relevance is shaping up from irrelevance of the Congress because of brute majority the BJP has been gathering since winning 2014 general elections and polls to the state assemblies held afterwards.
Uttar Pradesh is key to the success in the lower House of Indian Parliament as the country’s most populace state despatches 80 law makers of 543 odd members strength of the House and is very sensitive both communal and caste wise. Currently, the ruling BJP along with its allies had won 73 seats from the state in the previous Lok Sabha elections, but lost Gorakhpur and Phulpur seats in two parliamentary by-polls to the opposition that displayed a strength of unity against the BJP later.
The unchallenged rise of the BJP and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi forced the SP and BSP, once two arch rivals to come together and forge an alliance. The BSP supremo Mayawati and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav held a meeting to give shape to an alliance and deliberate upon seat sharing. At the initial stage they thought of inviting the Congress also into their folds. However, upset with Congress attitude in recently concluded assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh where Congress refused to accommodate both the parties, both the regional leaders gave up idea of taking Congress on board in UP saying the existing alliance would be broaden and RLD of Ajit Singh would also be accommodated giving three or four seats to their smaller partner.
“Thanks to the Congress, they did not make our legislator a minister. By doing so, the Congress had cleared the path for Uttar Pradesh,” said Akhilesh Yadav. Similarly, Mayawati had also reluctantly extended support to the minority governments of Congress in Rajasthan and MP after ruling out a pre-poll alliance with the Congress. Strangely, even though both the leaders have decided to keep the Congress out of alliance in UP, they however, don’t intend to field any candidate in Amethi and Raibareli, the two parliamentary seats currently held by Congress President Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi respectively.
It seems the move that has been initiated to have a grand alliance is giving relevance to the irrelevant Congress in the country particularly in the politically significant state of Uttar Pradesh where the party had its last government in 1989 which was headed by Narayan Dutt Tiwari. It is because of brute majority the BJP garnered in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and subsequent electoral victories it registered in elections held to the state assemblies afterwards. What SP-BSP is desperately looking for in Uttar Pradesh to stem the growth of BJP in the upcoming general elections, is a Bihar like grand alliance of the parties. However, the political situation in Uttar Pradesh defers from Bihar because here opposition has only one rival that is BJP, which has always been benefitted by an all opposition alliance.
The political analysts see SP-BSP, Congress and RLD alliance as an ideal situation to counter BJP in Uttar Pradesh for the opposition. But given the sensitive and fickle situation of the state politics, they envisaged a Congress-RLD tie-up as second option making the parliamentary elections a multi corner contest in UP. In both the situation the Congress seems set to be benefitted even though the party would not get major share but would certainly have a significant say at the national level for still having a pan India presence.
In any case the political situation ahead of this year general election seems reaching to stage where without the support of Congress, the formation of an alternative opposition-led government would simply not be possible set aside the multi-dollar question whether or India’s grand old party heads it or not.