As the poll drama heads towards its final act, the murmurs about how Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party are out to damage each other more than checkmate the ‘communal BJP’, are growing louder. These two parties have more at stake in Uttar Pradesh than at the Centre.
Both the SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and his BSP counterpart Mayawati nurture the dream of becoming the Prime Minister. They say that the road to New Delhi goes via UP, but they are actually fighting for the control of the state in 2017, aware that Delhi is beyond their reach this time too.
Political analyst Gyanendra Sharma says, “They never anticipated the real threat from Narendra Modi and thus no serious efforts were made to form a secular front. The BSP and Congress held talks at the top level last month to make some arrangements to stop the BJP. But it was too late in the day.
Now the SP and BSP are fighting for silver or bronze medal as religious polarisation is breaking the caste barriers.”
Reports pouring in from some of the constituencies that have gone to the polls indicate transfer of BSP core votes to the BJP to defeat the SP candidate. Sharma adds, “Even the SP entered into tacit understanding with the BJP in Lucknow. All is fair in love and war.”
According to political sources, a BSP functionary was sent to Etawah to ensure the votes were transferred to the BJP as nothing would have pleased Mayawati more than defeating Yadav in his home district. Also, there were few takers for Mayawati’s — Yadav’s too — aspiration of becoming PM since the voters are aware of who has a realistic chance.
In the last phase of polls on May 12, Yadav’s Azamgarh constituency is going to be a test case as BSP, which has a strong candidate there, would go all out to defeat him. People still recall her emotional speech in Azamgarh in 1996 when she had appealed voters to punish Yadav for the state guesthouse incident. Listening to her then was Prime Minister PV Narsimha Rao as BSP and Congress were partners.
Thus, it is the egocentric politics of the three secular parties (SP, BSP and Congress) that seems to be helping the BJP in an election in which the voters are overlooking the candidate and his controversial past in their bid to support Modi. While an electoral alliance between the SP and BSP seems impossible — unlike in the 1990s when they had come together to stop the BJP — efforts were made in 2009 for an SP-Congress alliance and BSP-Congress tie-up before the current elections. But the focus on controlling UP and not the secular agenda has invariably come in the way of all three parties. They have also not taken any initiative to take on Modi, the driver of BJP’s campaign, in Varanasi.
The drama reminds one of author Mustafa Kamal Sherwani’s lament. “These skull caps, these green scarves, these roza iftars, these secular voices… How long will you cover your heads? How long will you take to decide?”
Not, at least, for the time being.