BSP leader Mayawati’s emphatically stated disinclination to strike up an electoral understanding with the Congress comes as no surprise, although the latter had misplaced expectations from the Dalit tsarina.
From its inception about 20 years ago, the BSP has only looked for opportunities to increase its presence in legislatures, unshackled by even vague notions of ideology. Not for her the great questions of the day that take in alternative models of development, debates over public or private sector, or the communalism-secularism imbroglio. Ms Mayawati’s world is a simple one: if she personally wields power or if her party has raised its tally, her poor Dalit followers are ipso facto happy.
It was open to Ms Mayawati not to have any truck with the Congress in UP — where the latter declined to do her bidding to withdraw support from the Mulayam Singh government — but team up with it in several other north Indian states. Even that would have given the NDA a scare, given the social realignment of votes that the two parties together can bring about to mutual advantage. The BSP’s refusal to give any comfort to the Congress in the run-up to the election will fuel speculation that its leader is being strong-armed by the NDA government in the Taj corridor case. Of course, the BSP aligning with the BJP openly was not a possibility, given that the BJP’s core constituency does not sit well with the BSP’s, as was demonstrated when the two parties ran a coalition government in UP under Ms Mayawati’s leadership not so long ago.
It is unlikely that the BSP’s refusal to align with the Congress will turn out to be a strong enough single factor to bring down the Congress strength in the next Lok Sabha. But it will certainly inhibit the chances of a Congress advance in several regions, including UP. The net loss, then, is of the Congress, and the net gain that of the NDA. There doesn’t appear to be too great an advantage for the BSP in what has transpired, but there could be personal gains for its leader should the NDA be returned.