By Harihar Swarup
India is all set to enter coalition era with the single-party rule appears to be ending. As the situation obtains now neither the BJP nor the Congress is in a position to form government at the Centre or in States on their own. The BJP, perhaps, for the last time got a massive majority in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. In this year’s general elections—in April and May—the saffron party does not appear to get a majority and has to form coalition if it emerges as Single largest party. So is the case with the Congress. Coalition means instability and lack of good administration. Remember ‘Ayaram, Gayaram” days of sixties and then prevalent instability.
In recent elections, barring Chhattisgarh, Congress could not get absolute majority in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and the party had to seek support of Independents and smaller parties like BSP and Samajwadi party to form the government. Down south, Telangana was an exception.
In key state of Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav have decided to join hands and keep the Congress out of the alliance. The Congress has decided it would contest the poll on its own. This means division of votes and better chances for the BJP whom the BSP and SP have committed to defeat. Sworn enemies till recently one wonders how long BSP and SP alliance will continue? As an observer has to put it, “BSP-SP alliance can continue till Akhilesh bows to wishes of Mayawati”.
However, as a gesture of goodwill the BSP-SP combine has decided not to contest Amethi and Rae Bareli seats held by Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi respectively. The Congress may reciprocate the gesture by not fighting for the seats that SP leader Mulayam Singh and Akhilesh and Mayawati may contest if they are in electoral race.
This indicates that the doors might still be open for the Congress to join up with SP and BSP in a post poll arrangement should the opportunity or necessity arise. Plus, it is also likely that a pre-poll tie up with the Congress would see SP and BSP votes being transferred to the Grand Old Party but not the other way round. However, the SP-BSP combine’s main target is BJP.
Inclusion of Congress in SP-BSP alliance would have made it even more formidable. For, even if the party does not have an organization to boast of, it would have cemented the minority vote completely, and also brought a psychological plus to the table—of imparting a national character in what is after all going to be an all India battle. The UP alliance is expected to set the tempo for 2019 general election and give a fillip to similar efforts in other states.
Explanations have been put forward why was Congress not on board—the party’s demand for 20 seats after its three-state win (whereas BSP-SP were willing to give it only 8); Mayawati’s fear that an alliance with a “reviving” Congress may persuade Dalits to look at India’s Grand Old Party again; and the view that the Congress outside the alliance was more likely to damage BJP and cut into its Upper caste vote, particularly with Brahmins restive under a Thakur CM.
The BJP had won a whooping 71 out of 80 seats in UP in 2014, which played a critical role in BJP retaining the capability of forming a majority government on its own. But the SP-BSP alliance is projected to be a big challenge even for the BJP Juggernaut. For, should BSP hold on to Dalit votes base and the SP retain a sizable chunk of Yadavas and OBCs, it could spell serious trouble for BJP in the Hindi heartland.
Plus, the alliance will also ensure that unlike 2014 Muslim voters won’t split to the advantage of the BJP. In fact, in 2017 UP assembly polls SP and BSP both had won 22 per cent vote share. If they are able to poll similar numbers again, it would be a game changer. It could mean a big drop in seats for BJP in an election where every seat change will impact the complexion of the future Union Government.
But these are Lok Sabha elections and BJP will also be putting its best foot forward. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s forceful campaigning could upset opposition calculations yet again. Besides, notwithstanding the opposition’s success in recent assembly polls and bye elections earlier, voters could make a distinction in their state-level and national level choices. Nonetheless, the SP-BSP tie up does provide a solid pillar for the opposition’s mahagathbandhan plan across the country. And, as Mayawati has suggested, this alliance in most populous state, building on anti-incumbency at both central and state levels, should give Modi-Shah combine some sleepless nights. (IPA Service)