More than the potential participants of the much talked-about ‘Mahagathbandhan’ (grand alliance) in Uttar Pradesh, it is the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that is worried about its possible formation.
The Mahagathbandhan has left the top leadership of the BJP worried. (Source: PTI)
Apparently, the BJP leadership sees the grand alliance as a major threat to its political fortunes in the country’s most populous state, which gave Narendra Modi the unprecedented surge in 2014 and propelled him to the Prime Minister’s chair.
The formidable win of 73 of the state’s 80 Lok Sabha seats is clearly no mean task that can be easily repeated in 2019.
The BJP bigwigs know this better than anybody else — an alliance between the Congress, Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) could easily reverse the tide.
No wonder then that the BJP is leaving no stone unturned to create an impression that there is bitter acrimony among the potential alliance partners. BJP leaders have been busy impressing upon everyone that the SP and BSP would not part with anything more than two seats for the Congress. Interestingly, neither SP, nor BSP leaders have given any such indication from any platform.
SP-BSP have given no official indication that they will give only two seats to the Congress. But speculation is rife. (Source: PTI)
The BJP-controlled social media was flooded with stories targeting the possible grand alliance. Even a section of the mainstream media went about repeating stories claiming that the SP and BSP would abandon the Congress in 2019. However, both BSP national spokesperson Satish Chandra Misra and SP spokesperson Ghanshyam Tiwari flatly refuted such claims, while declaring that any decision on the Mahagathbandhan is yet to be taken.
However, while referring to the initial tug-of-war for chief ministership in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan at the end of the recently concluded Assembly elections, BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra was repeatedly heard arguing, “When the Congress party stood so badly divided in the states it won, how would any multi-party Mahagathbandhan ever become a reality in 2019?”
BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra has raised questions on the viability of the grand alliance. (Source: India Today)
Incidentally, the argument given against the grand alliance in UP also sounded quite illogical. Knowing that BSP supremo Mayawati was a tough bargainer and would not easily concede to anybody else’s terms and with SP chief Akhilesh Yadav virtually playing second fiddle to her, it would surely not be an easy task for the Congress to strike a deal with them.
If stories churning out from the rumour mills are to be believed, then the BSP and SP have settled for 38 and 37 seats respectively for the next big electoral battle in 2019, while sparing three seats for Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) and two for the Congress.
Their argument is reportedly simple — the Congress stood reduced to the two seats of Rae Bareilly (Sonia Gandhi) and Amethi (Rahul Gandhi) in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
But did anyone care to ask the SP — how many seats did they win in 2014 ? Well, the SP remained limited to its family pocket burroughs, retained by five members of the Yadav clan. And quite amusingly, the BSP failed to even open its account.
The yardstick on the basis of which the SP and BSP are understood to be seeking their share for 2019 was that of the 2009 Lok Sabha results — while the Congress is being shown its 2014 report card.
Significantly, if the 2009 results were to be taken as the common yardstick, then the Congress clearly stands at par with both the SP and BSP. The SP led the 2009 tally with 22 seats, followed by the Congress party’s 21 and the BSP’s 20. The BJP trailed at 16 while one seat was bagged by Kalyan Singh, who then contested as an independent.
Under these circumstances, it would be illogical to expect the Congress to settle for anything less than what the other potential partners are looking for. And considering that the Congress is now clearly on a resurgent path, after winning three major states in the Hindi heartland, it is surely on a stronger footing to ask for a respectable share.
The SP-BSP cannot ignore Congress' resurgence today. (Source: India Today)
However, even a large section of the media seemed ready to write off the Congress party in Uttar Pradesh, while much noise was being made by the BSP and SP whose leaders were apparently seeking to grab the lion’s share. It is believed that both Mayawati and Akhilesh were particularly miffed with the Congress because the party denied them their desired share of Assembly seats in the recently concluded Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan polls.
The decision made sense for the Congress though, as neither of the two parties enjoyed much of a presence in any of the three states. At the end of the day, the BSP could make a small mark by managing to win six seats in Rajasthan and two each in MP and Chhattisgarh. On the other hand, the SP’s performance remained miserably poor with just one Assembly seat in only Madhya Pradesh, drawing a naught in the other two states.
Sure enough, both Mayawati and Akhilesh are aware of where their parties actually stand on the ground. As such, it would be imprudent to believe that the stand reportedly being taken by the BSP-SP duo currently is anything beyond political posturing — with the sole intent of getting a legitimate share in the division of seats once the Mahagathbandhan starts taking shape.
However, if Mayawati and Akhilesh were to really stick to their guns and not accede a reasonable number of seats to the Congress, it would not be far-fetched to assume that the CBI sword dangling above their heads was actually preventing them from going for the Mahagathbandhan — that alone could give the BJP a run for its money in 2019.