Soon after the Bihar election results came out, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav made it clear that for the 2022 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, his party would not form alliance with any major party and would tie up with only smaller parties in the state.
So, why has Akhilesh Yadav already decided to go solo and project the SP as the main opposition party when the polls are still 14 months away?
Lessons from the past
The Samajwadi Party has had bad experiences with two major parties in the past. It fought the 2017 Assembly elections with the Congress and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). However, it ended up not only with a lesser number of seats but also its vote share decreased both times.
A senior SP leader said: “In 2017, when the Samajwadi Party entered into alliance with Congress, both the parties faced losses but it was SP which lost its vote share as well. With many party leaders not getting tickets as many seats went to the alliance partner, it resulted in large-scale resentment, and instead of consolidation of votes, it resulted in division of votes. ” 📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram
What happened in 2017
In 2017, around 114 out of 403 UP Assembly seats were to be given to the Congress. While an agreement could not be reached, there were about 40 SP leaders who ended up contesting on Congress tickets. This was not all. Despite the alliance, both the parties could not convince many of their leaders to leave their seats and, thus, there were about 28 seats on which both SP and Congress fielded their candidates. It was referred to as “friendly fights” that confused the voters. It was clear from the poll results that neither party was able to transfer its votes to each other’s candidates in seats left for the other, rather, infighting in both the parties strengthened the BJP.
SP’s vote share in past elections
Despite alliances with major parties, the Samajwadi Party’s vote share in the past four elections after 2012 — when it came to power with a majority in the state — has been on the decline. While in 2012 its vote share was 29.12 per cent, in 2014 Lok Sabha elections it was 22.3 per cent; in 2017 it decreased to 21.8 per cent, and in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, its vote share dipped further to 18.11 per cent.
Learnings from Bihar and the prevailing narrative
Samajwadi Party leaders say that outcomes of Bihar elections have made it clear that any alliance against the ruling BJP would work only post-poll if required and pre-poll alliance would only result in division of votes, infighting, which, they feel, would help BJP or its alliance partners in UP.
Moreover, there is a strong feeling among the Samajwadi Party that the narrative as of now is of a fight between the BJP and the SP, and if the SP enters into alliance with any other major party, it will spoil the narrative. “There is a clear narrative of ‘BJP versus SP’ for 2022 Assembly polls in the state and the focus would be on post-poll alliance if required rather than pre-poll alliances. Previous mistakes would not be repeated,” said a party leader.
There is also this realisation that no party, be it BSP, SP or Congress, has the capability to “transfer” votes of their parties to each other’s candidates. Therefore, the conclusion widely drawn is that it is better for all parties to go it alone and enter into any alliance after the elections.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines