The BSP-SP alliance could set the tone for 2019
There is a lot of talk about a ‘Mahagatbandhan’, or a Grand Alliance, of the Opposition in the run up to 2019. But it is becoming increasingly clear that there will be no pan-India coming together of all non-BJP parties. What the polity is witnessing is that in each state, the strongest force — be it the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal or the Congress in Rajasthan — will end up as the primary competitor to the BJP. It is only on the basis of the outcome in each state that there could be the coming together of all parties at the national level, after the election.
But there is one big exception: Uttar Pradesh. There, it is not one party but an alliance, and a truly important one, which is taking shape as the primary challenger to the BJP. Few would have expected the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bhaujan Samaj Party (BSP) to come together after decades of acrimony. But the impulse for political survival has brought together Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati. The initial seeds were laid in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, by-elections in which the BSP supported SP candidates. It received a boost in the Kairana bypoll in which both, either directly or indirectly, extended support to the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) candidate. It deepened with a broad understanding between the two parties that while the BSP would contest more Lok Sabha seats, the SP would have a greater share of seats in the assembly. And it has got buttressed further with reports that SP and BSP will not poach leaders and workers from each other’s party.
The alliance has several challenges: exact seat sharing; deciding on the contours of a common campaign; and ensuring the transfer of the votes of their supporters to the candidates of the other party. This alliance could well define the nature of the 2019 campaign and outcome.