Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s announcement on Thursday that his party will not have an alliance for the coming Uttar Pradesh assembly elections indicates that the idea of an alliance was not so much a step supported by leaders of the state’s ruling party as much as it was a by-product of the ongoing feud between Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his uncle Shivpal Yadav. That talks of a grand alliance continue nearly a month after Mulayam’s disclaimer at a press conference on October 14, reveals that the window for it is not entirely shut. In October, Mulayam had said his party would not be part of any alliance and that the party grows in strength only when it goes alone, a position often advocated by Akhilesh.
Shivpal pursued alliance talks as the acrimony between the CM and him deepened and he tried to stamp his authority on the party of which he was made the state president in place of Akhilesh. He talked about bringing together all the followers of Ram Manohar Lohia, Chaudhary Charan Singh and Mahatma Gandhi — a reference to the JD(U), RJD, RLD and the Congress. The party’s silver jubilee celebrations on November 5 — when several leaders of the erstwhile Janata Parivar shared the dais — was seen as the beginning of the process of alliance formation. However, Mulayam decided to skip the issue in his address, even as the RLD’s Ajit Singh suggested that he should lead such an initiative.
Mulayam later held talks with Congress poll strategist Prashant Kishor. Kishor also met Akhilesh, apparently to discuss the possibility of an alliance. Mulayam’s announcement on Thursday came even as talks of an alliance reached their peak. There are strategic problems for the SP in finalising an alliance: it has a robust organisation and support base in most of the assembly segments so it will find it difficult to leave seats for other parties. The opponents of the alliance in the party say that the Congress and the RLD, the only two which have a presence in UP, face stronger odds than the ruling party. Also the SP has already announced candidates for most of the 403 seats.
In the last few elections, the SP and the BSP have avoided any electoral alliance and settled for a post-poll alliance if the need arose. The SP leadership believes that an alliance with the Congress gets them little purchase but will rob them of a significant number of seats.
Those against the alliance feel that Ajit Singh’s hold on Jat voters in west UP has also loosened. An alliance between Jats and Muslims, the main SP supporters in west, also may have seen the minority community shift to Mayawati’s BSP after fractured relations between the two groups since the 2013 communal riots in Muzaffarnagar.
Leaders like Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar have not shown much interest in the so-called `mahagathbandhan’ after the SP’s surprise withdrawal from the coalition during last year’s Bihar polls. The inner rift within the SP makes it further difficult to finalise an alliance.
The announcement by Mulayam, if it is final, will be good news for Mayawati whose attempts at forging a Dalit-Muslim combine in west UP could have faced problem after the formation of a “secular” `mahagathbandhan’.