How will a BSP-SP alliance shape up? Key LS bypoll in Kairana may hold the key
Buzz of a larger alliance between the SP and BSP has increased following their partnership in recent bypolls for two Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh defeated the ruling BJP.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) plans to contest the by-election for Kairana Lok Sabha seat to test the viability of a possible alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP) in next year’s Parliamentary election, a BSP leader familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified. The outcome could potentially set the stage for an alliance where the BSP takes a bigger role in New Delhi and the SP in Lucknow, this person added.
Buzz of a larger alliance between the two parties has increased following their partnership in recent bypolls for two Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh defeated the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Subsequently, the two parties decided to participate in the birth and death programmes of their respective icons. And on Tuesday, a SP leader in Gorakhpur, Mohsin Khan, said BSP leader Mayawati should be prime minister.
BSP and SP leaders did not respond to calls and text messages seeking comment.
Mayawati, the BSP leader said, discussed the partnership with SP president Akhilesh Yadav during a half-hour on the evening of March 14. Yadav thanked Mayawati for the BSP’s support to SP candidates in by-elections for the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats, where the combine handed a crushing defeat to the BJP.
“The two by-elections showed that the BSP can transfer its votes to SP candidates. Before entering into a formal pact for the next Parliamentary election, we need to be sure that the SP can seamlessly transfer its votes to the BSP candidate,” the leader added. “The by-election in Kairana is that opportunity for the BSP.”
The BSP usually doesn’t contest by-elections but the BSP leader said Kairana could be an exception given Mayawati’s desperate bid to revive the party’s fortunes after back-to-back defeats in the parliamentary and assembly elections over the past three years. The BSP could not win a single Lok Sabha seats in 2014 and won only 19 out of 403 it contested in the 2017 assembly elections. The Kairana seat fell vacant after the death of BJP’s MP Hukum Singh in February.
A second BSP leader claimed that if an alliance does go through, the BSP may get to contest more Lok Sabha seats than the SP. In return, the SP may contest more seats in the state elections in 2022. That seems too long a time frame for a fledgling alliance-in-the-making between two parties that have traditionally been rivals, say analysts. Badri Narayan, a political commentator and author, said, “If you see it from the perspective of political interest, it is a compulsion for both BSP and SP to stay together till at least 2019, and maybe even 2022. If they don’t stick together, they will not be able to regain relevance at either the national or state level. But there will be ups and downs, there will be tensions, and there will be tough negotiations causing complications.”
Still, both SP and BSP leaders claim there’s a new warmth in the relationship now.
“We will not haggle over a few seats here and there but be guided by the large spirit of maintaining an understanding with the BSP,” a SP leader close to Akhilesh Yadav said.
SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav told reporters in Delhi on March 14, that he and his party “are grateful to the BSP and its workers who worked hard to ensure the victory of the SP candidate in these bypolls. As far as 2019 general election is concerned, just wait and watch. And hope for the best.”
The BSP considers Kairana a safe bet. The Kairana Lok Sabha seat includes five assembly segments of the Saharanpur district and is populated by Muslim, Gujjars, Dalits and Jats. Hukum Singh polled 565,000 votes in 2014, compared to Samajwadi Party’s tally of 330,000 votes and BSP’s 160,000 votes. While BJP’s candidate was a Gujjar, the SP and the BSP fielded Muslim candidates in a communally charged contest.
The BJP retained its hold over five assembly segments – Nakur, Gangoh, Kairana, Thana Bhawan and Shamli – of Kairana Lok Sabha seat in the 2017 assembly election, but the BSP improved its tally. The BJP polled total 433,000 votes in these segments, and the BSP improved its tally to 208,000 votes. The SP fielded candidates in three out of five seats and polled 160,000 votes. Akhilesh supported the Congress in Nakur and Shamli.
(With inputs from Rajesh Kumar Singh and Abdul Jadid)