Can SP-BSP alliance be a game changer?

When a Narendra Modi wave was sweeping the country ahead of the 2014 general election, the two prominent parties of Uttar Pradesh were struggling to protect their support base.

One of them — the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) — could not win a single seat out of the 80 Lok Sabha seats the state has, as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept to national power. The other — Samajwadi Party (SP) — managed to win five seats; all winners belonged to the Yadav family. The 2017 assembly elections produced another landslide in favour of the BJP.

Yet, the SP and BSP won a combined vote share of 41.80% and 44%, respectively, in the 2014 general election and 2017 UP assembly polls.The BJP polled 42.30% and 39.6%, respectively.

Not that there is a mathematical answer to every election, but ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, all political parties are putting their caste calculations in order. When SP national president Akhilesh Yadav says he has picked up the BJP’s formula to win elections, he is referring to the caste alliances that the BJP put in place in 2014 and 2017.

Read more| ‘We finally got our math right’, Akhilesh Yadav on SP-BSP alliance

Despite the Modi wave, the BJP entered caste alliances in 2014 and tied up with Apna Dal (representing the Kurmis) and Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (Rajbhars) in Uttar Pradesh. Both Kurmis and Rajbhars are concentrated in eastern UP.

Political analyst Badri Narain says the SP-BSP alliance may prove to be a game changer, damaging the BJP’s prospects in Uttar Pradesh, from where it won 73 Lok Sabha seats in 2014.

He says the coming together of two social bases – sections of the other backward classes (OBCs) and the Dalits – may actually turn the tables on the BJP.

The SP-BSP alliance may also prevent a split in the Muslims vote. Together, the Yadavs, Jatavs and Muslims ,along with a section of the OBCs, will make for a winning combination although they may or may not have any role in the formation of the government at the Centre.

Experts believe that if the Congress manages to win 100-plus seats in the Lok Sabha polls, the SP-BSP combine may extend its support to the national party and demand a share in power.

As of now, their main intent is to survive in state politics, activate their cadre and weaken the BJP in 2019 so that their state assembly battle in 2022 becomes easier.

“If they lose 2019, there will be an exodus from their parties,” said an analyst.

Read more| We will leave 2 seats for Congress, says Akhilesh Yadav on Lok Sabha poll plan

In private, BJP leaders also concede that it is going to be a fiercely fought election. “The alliance did not exist when we claimed victory on 100% seats. Now the rules of the game have changed,” a BJP leader said on condition of anonymity.

The 10 % quota in government jobs and college seats carved out this week for the upper caste poor is partly a result of the BJP’s desire to consolidate its vote base. Some upper castes were upset with the BJP-led central government’s decision to restore provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act that were struck down by the Supreme Court.

Satish Prakash, a Dalit activist from western UP, asked, “When the BJP is bringing constitutional amendments to appease 2-3% voters, why shouldn’t other parties also form caste alliances?”

The inclusion of the Congress in the alliance would have made it more formidable, he said. “Why is Congress so overconfident and ignoring the advantage it can derive by striking a national alliance with the BSP?,” he asked.

First Published: Jan 12, 2019 11:35 IST

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