The fault lines between the vote-banks that the SP and the BSP nurture are deep and go back in time to several decades
Let there be no mistake: The equal distribution of seats between the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party does not translate into equal status for the two parties in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha election. The Press conference addressed jointly by SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and BSP supremo Mayawati gave sufficient indications of the fact that Mayawati is the dominant partner. Mercurial as she is, this does not bode well for the alliance’s longevity.
Mayawati was vocal in her criticism of the Congress, calling it corrupt and “sold out”. She also said that Congress brought nothing to the table
Yadav made his initial remarks at the Press meet through a prepared script. This was a departure, commentators observed, from his earlier habit of speaking extempore. Obviously, he wanted to make doubly sure that he did not say anything which would be construed as even remotely offensive to the BSP. Mayawati too stuck to a written statement, and yet she took the liberty of reminding Akhilesh of the infamous 1995 incident when a mob of SP supporters and elders had come close to lynching her. Unlike the cautious SP leader, she was not bothered about embarrassing him with that recollection, though she added that she was prepared to move on.
But Mayawati does not forget, nor does she easily forgive. She referred to the incident only to subtly remind Akhilesh Yadav that she was being magnanimous towards the SP for now and that she expected him to be beholden to her for such magnanimity. In that reminder lay other facts too, the most illuminative being that the BSP had thereafter tied up with the BJP and Mayawati had displaced Mulayam Singh Yadav’s SP regime in Uttar Pradesh.
There are more indications of her dominance in the present arrangement. In the 2014 election, her party had ended up with zero seats while the SP got five. In the 2017 Assembly poll, her party had finished third, behind the SP. And yet she has today managed to get the same number of seats as the SP to contest the 2019 election.
Mayawati was vocal in her criticism of the Congress, calling it corrupt and “sold out”. She also said that Congress brought nothing to the table. But Akhilesh Yadav said nothing against the national party. This was another sign of the BSP leader taking the lead in setting the agenda for the alliance.
There were many reasons for that failure, one among them being Mayawati’s direct interference in the State government’s functioning which resulted in the collapse of the regime he led
Mayawati’s preeminent position in the present electoral arrangement with the SP derives from the fact that the SP needs the BSP more than the BSP needs the SP. Going by its track record, the BSP had a wide choice of potential allies. It has done business with both the Congress and the BJP in the past — it has had formal coalitions with the latter. On the other hand, the SP’s options are limited. It cannot go anywhere except to the Congress. But it had already burnt its fingers by aligning with the Congress for the 2107 Assembly election. Besides, Akhilesh faces a fresh challenge from the breakaway faction led by his uncle and one-time mentor Shivpal Yadav, who has floated his own outfit and has begun to make menacing noises in the SP’s backyard.
Akhilesh Yadav’s obeisance is not going down well among the SP’s rank and file, nor can it be a source of inspiration for its grassroots workers and supporters. A few voices have already begun to be heard in protest; one senior leader has remarked that it was a “mistake” Akhilesh Yadav had made and that Mayawati would play ball only as long as the SP chief bowed and scraped before her. As the 2019 poll draws near, it remains to be seen whether more voices of discontent will be raised in the public domain.
Interestingly, there has been no reaction from Mulayam Singh Yadav, founder of the Samajwadi Party, on the fresh developments. Of course, he has remained sidelined since the last four years, with son Akhilesh calling the shots after ousting him from the president’s post. Nearly 25 years ago, the senior Yadav had, along with BSP chief Kanshi Ram, stitched the first (and until recently only) SP-BSP alliance which collapsed less than two years later. There were many reasons for that failure, one among them being Mayawati’s direct interference in the State government’s functioning which resulted in the collapse of the regime he led. The underlying theme had been the Yadav-Scheduled Caste clashes.
The fault lines between the vote-banks that the SP and the BSP nurture are deep and go back in time to several decades. Have those been genuinely addressed through the alliance or have they been only papered over? Time will tell.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.