Pending a final agreement on a pre-poll alliance and seat-sharing, the SP and BSP have entered into an informal understanding to not poach on each other’s ranks. Sources in both parties said the SP will not take in any BSP rebel and the BSP will, likewise, not induct any SP rebel. While neither party has issued a written directive in this regard, senior leaders of both parties described the informal understanding as a trust-building exercise to ensure that their alliance — seen in byelections for the Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairana Lok Sabha seats and the Noorpur Assembly seat in Uttar Pradesh — remains intact for the 2019 elections.
SP spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said no BSP leader had joined his party in the last two months. “Since SP and BSP have in principle decided to form an alliance against the BJP for the Lok Sabha elections, the workers and leaders of both parties have already stopped switching sides,” Chaudhary said.
Leaders from the two parties who were planning to join any third party, too, had changed their minds after the SP and BSP announced their alliance, he claimed.
A senior BSP leader confirmed Chaudhary’s statement. “The last time someone from the SP joined the BSP was almost two months ago, when a former SP candidate joined the BSP in Agra,” the leader said. “It is obvious that anyone who quits the BSP to join us will make statements against the BSP leadership. We do not think that either of our parties can stand with a person who speaks against the other. It is natural goodwill on our part, and we expect the same goodwill from the BSP too,” a senior SP leader said. The “most important thing”, this SP leader said, “is that the SP has decided that it will not approach any BSP leader because he appears to be a strong candidate”. The idea, the leader said, was to make the alliance, rather than any one party, stronger.
A senior BSP leader said that although Mayawati had issued no specific instructions yet, she was not expected to encourage any SP rebel. “Any decision on taking a leader of any stature into the BSP from other parties is taken only by Mayawati. We have so far not received any direction from her to restrict joining, but we expect that she will not give a person who quits the SP and speaks against (SP chief) Akhilesh Yadav, a BSP ticket,” the BSP leader said. The sources also said that neither party would be averse to fielding their candidates on the symbol of the other, on the condition of winnability, like in the recent Kairana bypolls.