An angry Samajwadi Party dumped a grand alliance of erstwhile socialist parties on Thursday and announced it would go it alone in the Bihar polls but experts said the move was unlikely to affect the election outcome.
The ruling party of Uttar Pradesh was upset over the five seats allotted to it as part of an Opposition coalition taking on the BJP in the October-November state polls and said other parties would join it in Bihar for a possible third front.
“Top leaders, grass root level workers and more importantly, the Bihar unit, were mighty angry with the treatment doled out to us. We will soon announce the number of seats the SP will contest and the candidates,” said SP national general secretary Ramgopal Yadav after a crucial meeting of the party’s parliamentary board.
The development is a major blow to the so-called six-party Janata Parivar -- led by SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav – which came together after the general elections to stave off a surging BJP that had romped home in a clutch of state elections after a stunning Lok Sabha victory.
“What parivar? There was no parivar... It never existed. I always knew that it can’t take off and I categorically said formalising it is signing the SP’s death warrant. It would have meant losing the party’s hard earned identity,” a visibly-angry Ramgopal told reporters.
“We are likely to take some other parties on board. Taking names would be inappropriate and pre-mature,” he said.
Friends-turned-foes Lalu Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal (United) also mended fences ahead of the Bihar polls, allying with the Congress and SP to fight a saffron alliance that had swept the state in the 2014 general elections.
The RJD and JD(U) are fighting on 100 seats each and the Congress on 40.
The Nationalist Congress Party -- which earlier walked out of the Bihar alliance over similar seat-sharing complaints -- backed the SP, saying the coalition was disintegrating, and announced it was planning to launch a third alternative.
"Both Nitish Kumar and BJP are responsible for the plight of the state. The one-upmanship over package was a ploy to confuse the electorate in a web of figures and promises. We must come up with a third alternative," party national general secretary Tariq Anwar told reporters.
But though the SP also walked out of the Bihar “Mahagathbandhan”, analysts said it wouldn’t adversely impact the prospects of the alliance as Mulayam didn’t have any support base in the state and was decimated in the last assembly elections in 2010, losing its deposits on all 146 seats it contested.
“This was a downright insult. The number of seats they gave us was below our dignity. What they did was against the basic ethics of an alliance. They did not even consult us. We came to know through rumours and the media,” said Ramgopal.
The SP had originally demanded 47 seats then climbed down to 27, then to 17 and finally agreed to 12. But it wasn’t allotted a single seat at an August 12 meeting of Bihar’s grand alliance, prompting the party’s state chief Ramchander Singh Yadav to go on a hunger strike. This forced Lalu to give the three seats earlier given to the NCP – in addition to two from his own quota of 100 – to the SP.
“We will win far more seats in Bihar than what they had allotted us “Not only we will go alone in Bihar, but we are likely to take some other parties on board. Taking names of those parties would be inappropriate and pre-mature,” said Ramgopal.
Ramgopal also dismissed speculation that the SP’s decision would eventually help the BJP in the Bihar polls by splitting “secular” votes. “Had this been the situation, why did the BJP win elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh? There were no other parties except the BJP and Congress. This theory is absurd.”