The widespread punditry that the communal polarisation in UP will help the ruling SP is wrong. The SP, if it calculates to benefit from the situation, will go gravely wrong. The emerging social combinations will dramatically change the course of politics in UP, hugely to the benefit of two parties, the BJP and the BSP, and hugely to the disadvantage of the SP and the Congress.
The SP is in unenviable situation. The Yadav-Muslim-Brahmin social combination that brought it to power in 2012 is unravelling fast. The split between the Yadavs and the Muslims is the most damaging, since that has been the base of the SP.
The Yadavs think the Muslims are getting the bigger share in power; the Muslims feel betrayed after the government failed to deliver on several promises. To top it all, for the first time in the last two decades, they are vulnerable to riots too, which has turned them hostile to the SP.
The SP has been reduced to a clique of powerbrokers and criminals among the Yadavs and the Muslims, disconnected from the commoners among both communities, who are going in opposite directions.
The Muslims have already distanced from the SP. To say that Yadavs will shift away from SP may sound outlandish, but it is happening, and in a Lok Sabha election that is possible, since their power in the state is not at stake.
So, where are they all headed to? A resurgent BJP, aided by a communally-surcharged social environment will easily become a magnet for a good section of the Brahmins, other upper castes and backwards including a noticeable number of Yadavs.
As for the Muslims, they have to choose between the Congress and the BSP. In 2009, a substantial number of Muslims had shifted to the Congress in UP but in 2012 that number reduced hugely. And the Congress' reputation in a riot situation is bad - the Meerut riots of 1987 happened under its watch. The BSP, despite its occasional dalliance with the BJP, will be more acceptable for the Muslims in the coming election.
So, one pole in UP in 2014 will be the BSP with Dalits and Muslims at its core with added sections of backwards. The BJP will consolidate a larger Hindu base, with Brahmins and non-Yadav backwards forming its core. The SP will hold together what it can with the help of state power. Congress will be squeezed badly.