AFTER MISREADING, or rather ignoring the signals sent by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar before he finally decided to part ways with the Opposition, the Congress again appears to be in no hurry to listen to the veiled suggestion of BSP chief Mayawati to show urgency in stitching a grand alliance in Uttar Pradesh.
While announcing BSP’s decision not to attend Lalu Prasad’s grand Opposition rally in Patna on Sunday, the BSP last Thursday had virtually demanded that the contours — specifically the nature of the alliance and the seat-sharing formula — be decided in advance for any meaningful Opposition alliance to take shape for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. She had more or less made it a precondition.
However, her remarks seemed to have not generated any flutter within the Congress. In fact, a senior leader, who played a key role in stitching the alliance with Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party for the Uttar Pradesh polls earlier this year, was clueless about Mayawati’s statement. “When did she say this?” was how the leader reacted on Monday when The Indian Express contacted him. Another senior leader from UP, who was involved in the SP-Congress campaign, also did not share Mayawati’s sense of urgency. “We have so much time at our disposal before elections,” he said over phone. “Everyone has compulsions. We will work out some formula.”
BSP leaders, on the other hand, suggested that Mayawati’s remarks were an attempt to nudge the Congress to complete the groundwork in advance for any grand alliance in UP. “Obviously, we are in favour of a united Opposition. But the onus is on the Congress to act proactively for the Opposition cooperation at the national level,” said a senior BSP leader, suggesting that it was for Congress to play the role of a mediator in stitching any grand alliance in the state.
“We need clarity whether the alliance will be local (state-specific) or national, as we contest nationally,” the leader said. “Second, any one party walking out of the proposed alliance due to last-minute hiccup over seat-sharing will be branded as being hands in glove with BJP. That will bring discredit to both the alliance and the party walking out. That’s another reason the contours of alliance need to be fixed.” But the Congress claimed that the BSP is trying to flex muscles. “The BSP is posturing to extract commitment for seat-sharing outside UP,” a party leader said.
While there have been suggestions for SP-BSP-Congress grand alliance among Opposition parties, leaders of other regional parties expect Congress to play the bridge between SP and BSP. This comes at a time when SP patron Mulayam Singh Yadav and son Akhilesh, the party national president, are pulling in different directions. While Akhilesh’s participation in Lalu Prasad’s rally in Patna on Sunday was a clear indication of SP’s keenness to join the Opposition alliance, Mayawati’s absence was another veiled message to heed to her demands.