‘PM contender’ Mayawati tapping regional parties across India for tie-ups before 2019 election
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati is tapping regional parties across India for potential electoral alliances which could help her emerge a strong contender for the prime minister’s post in the event of next year’s general election throwing up a hung Parliament, two leaders familiar with the matter said.
Mayawati has a pact with Janata Dal (Secular) in Karnataka and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) in Haryana, and she recently discussed a tie-up with former chief minister Ajit Jogi’s Chhattisgarh Janta Congress in the tribal-dominated state.
“She is also keen to partner with Jagan Mohan Reddy of the YSR Congress in Andhra Pradesh,” a BSP leader, one of the two people cited above, said on condition of anonymity.
A pact with the Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh, which led to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) defeat in by-elections to three key Lok Sabha seats , and SP leader Akhilesh Yadav’s undeclared support for her 2019 electoral ambitions have emboldened the Dalit leader to look for tie-ups outside the state, said the second leader, who asked not to be identified.
The BSP fielded candidates in 503 Lok Sabha seats in 2014, polled 23 million votes with a share of 4.2%, but could not win a single seat. It polled 19.8% votes in UP, 4.8% in Uttarakhand, 4.6% in Haryana, 3.9% in Madhya Pradesh, 2.6% in Maharashtra, 2.4% each in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh , 1.9% in Punjab, and 1.2% in Delhi.
“These votes outside UP go waste,” the BSP leader said. “We want to stitch up alliances that also bring us seats from outside Uttar Pradesh.”
The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) emerged as the third largest party — after the BJP and the Congress — with 37 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, and Mayawati could be eyeing that position in 2019, the second leader said.
The Congress has reached out to her for a pact in Madhya Pradesh, but remains non-committal about an alliance in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. All three states head to assembly elections later this year.
The BSP leader said exploring an alliance with regional political entities does not mean the doors are closed for an alliance with the Congress. “We want a relationship that benefits us too,” he said.
Political expert Badri Narayan sees Mayawati already positioning herself for a role in Delhi after the 2019 election.
“She is a hard bargainer,” said Narayan, a professor at the Allahabad-based Govind Ballabh Pant Social Science Institute. “While her chances of winning increase in alliance with the Congress, a pact with regional parties allows her greater say in seat distribution.”
Mayawati’s approach comes at a time when regional parties are realising the need to partner to compete with the BJP.
“Election after election have proved that Congress is getting irrelevant,” said, Amit Jogi, the legislator-son of Ajit Jogi. “Karnataka and UP have shown us that only regional parties can take on the BJP. We need to move in that direction.”