On Monday, BSP chief Mayawati snapped an unsuccessful alliance with the Samajwadi Party, saying her party would contest future elections on its own. Weeks earlier, she had announced that the BSP would go solo in 11 Assembly seats that are scheduled to witness byelections on account of the MLAs having become MPs.
The stated reasons
Mayawati has cited a review that reportedly found that the BSP did not gain from the alliance as it had expected. The SP’s attitude after the Lok Sabha elections, she said, suggests that it will not be possible for the alliance to defeat the BJP.
Earlier this month, she had said the SP’s core voters, the Yadavs, had drifted away from the alliance, even in SP strongholds. The claim is based on the fact that in five seats where the SP fielded Yadav candidates (Jhansi, Kannauj, Mainpuri, Badaun and Firozabad), their vote count was less than half the combined votes polled by the SP and BSP candidates in 2014. In Mainpuri, SP founder Mulayam Singh Yadav had polled 5.95 lakh votes in 2014 and the BSP 1.42 lakh, but Mulayam’s count dropped to 5.24 lakh in 2019 despite the alliance with the BSP.
While the BSP cites such examples, the fact remains that the party’s votes rose in most of the 38 seats it contested, which could not have been possible without the votes of many traditional SP supporters.
Eye on 2022
Beyond the stated reasons, the election brought bigger gains to the BSP (10 of 80 seats) than the SP (5). It has provided the BSP an opportunity to present itself as a viable alternative for Muslims, the SP’s other vote bank. While Mayawati claimed Yadav votes drifted away from the SP, she has thanked Muslims for supporting BSP, and appointed Kunwar Danish Ali as party leader in Lok Sabha.
Also, an alliance would have brought additional problems in the 2022 Assembly elections. One is the question of a chief ministerial candidate, with both parties aiming for the seat, while seat-sharing could raise local rebellion in some of the 403 seats, sources in both parties said.
On the flip side, the BSP stares at a possible loss of credibility. It risks losing the goodwill of Yadav voters, whom it has blamed for the alliance’s poor showing. The announcement having come before the 11 Assembly byelections, it also carries the risk of turning a number of voters towards the BJP.
But to the BSP, which does not have the numbers to even elect Mayawati to Rajya Sabha, the Assembly elections offer the only immediate route for a possible revival.
How they got together
The BSP and the SP had joined hands after over two decades, with the aim of pooling their votes against BJP. The footprints of both were shrinking as the BJP had swept most of the state’s Lok Sabha seats in 2014 and 80% of the Assembly in 2017. Their individual vote shares, however, added up to more than the BJP’s in 2017 (44% against BJP’s 39.7%) and was fractionally behind in 2014 (42% against 42.6%).
From constituency-wise data of 2017, projected to 2019, SP and BSP leaders figured that by pooling their votes they could defeat the BJP in 50 Lok Sabha seats. They joined hands in 2018, and won Lok Sabha bypolls in Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairana (the last with RLD support). But in 2019, these calculations failed to work as the BJP won 62 seats and its ally Apna Dal (S) won two.
The earlier break-up
The SP and the BSP had contested the 1993 Assembly elections together. They polled over 29% votes and won 176 seats — the SP 109 and the BSP 67 — against the BJP’s 33% and 177 seats. Mulayam became Chief Minister of the SP-BSP alliance. Frequent conflict followed, however, and on June 2, 1995, Mayawati decided to withdraw support. That evening, some SP MLAs and district-level leaders reached the State Guest House in Lucknow, where Mayawati was meeting her MLAs to discuss their next step. SP MLAs and workers surrounded the guesthouse and went on the rampage, forcing Mayawati to lock herself into a room while they detained several of her MLAs. Then BJP MLA Brahm Dutt Dwivedi, who was present, is widely acknowledged as having stepped in protect Mayawati against possible physical assault. Mulayam’s government was sacked on June 3 and that same evening, Mayawati took oath as CM with outside support from the BJP and the Janata Dal.