A President’s rule is the second best option for Narendra Modi’s BJP in Uttar Pradesh.
If predictions of a hung verdict in UP hold true after Saturday’s counting, chances of the state being placed under Centre’s rule cannot be ruled out.
It will all depend on how short the single largest party is from the half-way mark of 202 and if the BSP and the SP can bury their differences to block the BJP from coming to power in case of a hung assembly.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has been projected as the single largest group by three exit polls and if it is within a striking distance of the magic figure, parties like the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) of Jat stalwart Ajit Singh and independents will hold the key to forming a government. The RLD is believed to have regained ground in the Jat-land (districts of western UP where the community has a strong presence).
BJP leadership is hopeful of winning the country’s most populated and politically crucial state with a comfortable majority.
The party is also confident about cobbling up numbers in case of a hung verdict.
Its problems get compounded only in case it falls 50-60 seats short of the majority, despite emerging as the single largest group. ‘Others’ are unlikely to win so many seats and hence any government formation will not be possible without the Bahujan Samaj Party of former chief minister Mayawati.
Samajwadi Party president and chief minister Akhilesh Yadav tried to preempt a BJP-BSP coalition, suggesting he was open to an alliance with Mayawati to stop the BJP from coming to power in an interview to BBC on Friday.
The two parties were partners in power in the 90s.
SP strategists explain this as a tactical move by Akhilesh who has now put the onus on Mayawati to stop the BJP from coming to power. “She is without much choice now,” explained an aide of Akhilesh. Both the SP and the BSP were vying for Muslim votes. So supporting a BJP government in Lucknow could be detrimental to them in 2019 Lok Sabha election, which is just two years from now.
All exit polls have predicted a poor show by Mayawati with India TV-C Voter giving the BSP a maximum of 81-93 seats. India Today-Axis survey has predicted a meager 28-42 seats for it.
If Mayawati loses steam at a figure around 60, it will be difficult for her to keep her flock together. The BSP will be vulnerable to poaching by the BJP and the SP.
A President’s rule in the state can give the BJP the desired time to arrange numbers to reach the magic figure, in case it is short of the majority by a wide margin. A President’s rule in UP will be as good as a BJP government. A former BJP MP, Ram Naik, currently occupies the Raj Bhawan in Lucknow and the BJP is at power at the Centre.
Uttar Pradesh has a history of such defections from the BSP camp. The Kalyan Singh-led BJP government in 1997 proved its majority in the state assembly by engineering a defection in the BSP and the Congress.
The BJP also received flaks from political opponents for imposing President’s rule in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand – both of which were lifted after court’s order.