BAHUJAN SAMAJ PARTY supremo Mayawati has finally laid to rest all speculation over a pre-poll alliance with the Congress in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. Addressing a rally in Lucknow on her birthday, 15 January, she said her party will contest the polls on its own. This has queered the pitch for the Congress, which was hoping to salvage its electoral prospects by allying with the BSP in the state that elects the maximum number of MPs (80) to the Lok Sabha.
Over the past few months, the Congress’ media managers had created an impression that a tie-up with the BSP in Uttar Pradesh was on the cards and could be announced on Mayawati’s birthday. Soon after the CBI cleared Mayawati’s name in a Disproportionate Assets case last year, Congress MPs from the state had started pushing for an alliance with the BSP, insisting it was necessary to defeat “the designs of the BJP and the Samajwadi Party to reap electoral benefits by polarising the people of UP along communal lines”. Madhusudan Mistry, the AICC general secretary in charge of the state, held several rounds of talks with BSP general secretary Satish Mishra to work out a seat-sharing formula.
However, Mishra clarified that the BSP “has no reason to seek a tie-up with any party as we are all set for a sterling performance in the polls on our own”. Former Rajya Sabha MP Anand Prakash Gautam of the Congress claimed that the initial discussions did take place but failed to yield any positive results. “The Congress was not prepared for an all-India tie-up with the BSP, and the latter was not interested in an alliance on its home turf, where it is confident of giving a tough fight to its arch rival, the Samajwadi Party,” says Gautam.
In its three-decade history, the BSP has entered into a pre-poll alliance only twice. It had fought the 1993 mid-term Assembly polls in alliance with the then fledgling Samajwadi Party, leading to the formation of a government under Mulayam Singh Yadav, the SP supremo. Another mid-term Assembly election was held in 1996, for which the BSP tied up with the Congress. The Congress gained significantly from that alliance, garnering an impressive vote share of 29.13 percent.
Before winning the Assembly polls on its own for the first time with a simple majority of 206 seats in a House of 403 in May 2007, the BSP had thrice formed the government in UP with support from the BJP — in 1995, 1997 and 2002. However, it refused to ally with the BJP in the 1998, 1999 and 2004 Lok Sabha elections.
In the 2009 General Election, while the BSP won 20 of the 80 seats from Uttar Pradesh with a vote share of 27.4 percent, the Congress got 22 seats with a vote share of 18.3 percent — a gain of 6.3 percent compared to the 2004 polls. But recent pre-poll surveys suggest that the Congress’ tally this time will not exceed nine seats, while the BSP could win 21-23, the SP 25-27 and the BJP 21-23. No wonder the Congress is desperate to find allies in Uttar Pradesh.
“Why should the BSP opt for an alliance with the Congress, whose chips are down at the moment?” asks political analyst Ashutosh Mishra. “The Congress has clearly lost its moorings in Uttar Pradesh and it has no clearly identifiable social base in the state. Its efforts to woo the BSP were doomed to fail.”
Pointing out the unique character of the BSP as a Dalit party, Mishra explains, “It has the capacity to transfer its entire vote bank to its electoral ally, but will never get votes from the latter’s social base because the Dalits’ interests are diametrically opposed to that of the other social groups in Uttar Pradesh.”
In fact, at the 15 January rally, Mayawati told her supporters that even if the Congress or any other party were to install a Dalit as prime minister or chief minister, he or she “will remain a slave of those parties” and never be able to work for the downtrodden “bahujan samaj”.