The two neighbouring states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar share a lot of common political ground – they follow the same caste-based political course but prefer homegrown leaders to outsiders.
While Bihar has consistently rejected the political adventures of UP bigwigs Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati despite a sizeable Yadav and Dalit population, chief minister Nitish Kumar and RJD chief Lalu Prasad from the neighbouring state too have failed to make any inroads in Uttar Pradesh so far.
The same can be said about Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party and the late Bal Thackeray’s Shiv Sena over the years.
In the 2015 Bihar elections, Mulayam’s SP polled barely 1.01% of the votes. Some experts’ argument that voters actually vented their anger against him for abandoning the so-called Grand Alliance— now holding Bihar’s reins— at a crucial juncture does not hold ground as even in 2010 the SP lost deposits on all the 146 seats it contested.
Even Mayawati’s BSP polled 2.07% of the votes last year and 3.21% in 2010.
Both tasted their best returns in 2005 with the BSP winning two seats and the SP four.
The political attitude of Uttar Pradesh voters is no different. They rejected both Lalu’s RJD and Nitish’s JD(U) in the 2012 as well as the 2007 polls, delivering a clear mandate for indigenous leaders Mulayam and Mayawati. The RJD and JD(U) polled less than 1% of the votes in both elections.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s TMC did win a 2012 by-poll from the Manth assembly constituency in Mathura because she fielded a veteran who had been winning the seat since 1989.
Against this background, an upbeat Grand Alliance is looking to emerge as the fourth or fifth political alternative in the state which will witness a fierce three-cornered contest between the SP, BSP and BJP next year.
The extended alliance, or the fourth pole, can at best rally the parties that have shrunk over the years— the Rashtriya Lok Dal and Congress— apart from little-known state outfits like the Peace Party, which rattled political bigwigs in 2012 by winning four seats.
According to experts, the Bihar hype may get the Grand Alliance some crowds but not votes till it aligns with one of the two regional forces – the SP and BSP. So far, both these parties have decided to fight the 2017 polls alone.
The new political star and Bihar CM, Nitish Kumar, is about to embark on a UP tour which party leader KC Tyagi feels would help cement an alternative front against the BJP.
Nitish seems likely to play a national role in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and the Grand Alliance performance could pave the way.
As of now, the coalition could be eyeing the Yadav, Muslim and Kurmi votes. The Yadavs have rejected Lalu in the past and he may not address rallies himself. Mulayam stayed away from Bihar, sending his chief minister son Akhilesh Yadav for a perfunctory show of strength.
Muslims vote for the winning horse and in UP they have an alternative in the BSP. However, a section of the rudderless and sharply fragmented 7-8% Kurmi (OBC) votes could fall into the Grand Alliance’s lap. But here too, the combine will be vying with the BJP’s Santosh Kumar Gangwar and the party’s ally Anupriya Patel in Rohilkhand and Poorvanchal.