As the Samajwadi Party implodes, two people will be smiling for now, but for different reasons. Among them, only one will have the last laugh after the Uttar Pradesh election.
Amit Shah, the BJP national president and the man who won the party the politically crucial state in the 2014 elections, would be delighted to see the turmoil in the state’s ruling SP.
Ever since the election climate heated up, Shah has been telling reporters that the party’s main rival is the SP. And this was because the BJP felt that Muslims would still consolidate towards Mulayam Singh.
“The tallest leader for Muslims in UP remains Mulayam Singh. We know Mayawati is wooing them. But our sense is that Akhilesh’s face plus the Muslim loyalty to SP makes them our primary adversary,” an influential BJP leader had told HT in November.
As the news of CM Akhilesh Yadav’s expulsion from the SP trickled in, the BJP felt that the winning combination was broken. A Lucknow-based leader said, “The minority vote will now get divided between various parties; the opposition is fragmented; it will show only we are capable of providing a stable and decisive government in UP.”
But such celebrations could be premature, for a little away from the BJP office on Vidhan Sabha Marg in Lucknow is the Mall Avenue palatial residence of the other person who would be smiling --- Mayawati.
The BSP’s primary challenge so far has been convincing the Muslims that it would be a reliable representative of its interests. While the SP has never allied with the BJP, Mayawati has been in alliance with the party several times --- and this has generated suspicion among the community that she could go for a post-poll arrangement.
Conventional political wisdom in the state is that Muslims would -- to a large extent -- vote for the party best positioned to defeat the BJP. With the SP fragmented, the sense in Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is that they can now make a more convincing case to the community. Mayawati has already given 125 tickets to Muslim candidates in a bid to reach out to them.
The other way in which the BSP benefits is it is now the only party in the race with both a leader and an organisation. The BJP has the organisation, but no leader. Mulayam’s SP has the organisation but no face. Akhilesh will have himself but no organisation, and the Congress has neither.
It is too early to know who will smile on counting day. For now, the battle between the BJP and the BSP has become sharper.