The success of the Grand Alliance in Bihar has generated speculations on the possibility of a similar alliance in Uttar Pradesh, where defeating the BJP will not be a cakewalk.
In all probability, the BJP may tweak its 2017 poll strategy for UP from the lessons learnt in Bihar. Its overdependence the upper castes may not help the party win many seats in the state; for that it must penetrate the formidable backward and Dalit vote banks.
The BJP doesn’t have a leader like Kalyan Singh, who became the face of both Mandal and Kamandal in the early 1990s. He was the temple hero from the OBC community. The state politics has been controlled by OBCs and Dalits since its mandalisation in early 1990s. Of the 11 chief ministers since, only Rajnath Singh and Ram Prakash Gupta belonged to the upper caste.
Post Bihar polls, the regional forces decimated by Narendra Modi in the 2014 general elections are back in reckoning. The Congress, which till sometime pursued the ‘ekla chalo’ policy, may also accept the role of a smaller player in UP.
Apparently, Congress leaders may again ask the high command to start discussions on choosing a partner for the 2017 polls. Notwithstanding the celebrations in the party, the fact remains that it won 27 seats more by riding the vote banks of its partners rather than reviving its own vote base in Bihar.
A senior BJP leader admitted the ‘transfer of votes’ in Bihar by partners was not a farce. “Contrary to common belief, the leaders – Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav - sincerely transferred their votes to each other,” he said.
According to him, UP’s track record proves that while the BSP’s votes are transferable, other parties have often failed to do the same. The BSP had entered into a pre-electoral alliance – with the SP in 1993 and the Congress in 1996 – and party leaders claimed they did not get the support of other castes represented by the two parties.
Public debate has already started on various political combinations while ruling out the possibility of Mulayam and Mayawati coming together in 2017.
Apparently the BSP is focusing on west UP where a tie-up with the RJD and possibly the Congress could happen. The contentious issue of seat-sharing could be resolved with the BSP taking the bulk of the seats and the RJD and the Congress playing second fiddle.
The other possible combination could be an alliance between the SP and the Congress. The RJD, with its base confined to west UP, would prefer the BSP because of the overwhelming Dalit population in its area of influence.
So far, Rahul has been against electoral alliances but Bihar may convince him to renew the party’s strategy. A similar hype in 2009, in UP when the party won 21 Lok Sabha seats, soon dissipated.
Expect behind-the-scene parleys in the coming days.