“Do you want to risk division of Muslim votes in Uttar Pradesh by going along with the Congress in Bihar?”
This is what SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav was asked by top BJP leaders he met earlier this week in the heart of New Delhi.
On Thursday, the SP walked out of the Nitish Kumar-led grand alliance in Bihar that includes the Congress.
It was conveyed to the SP leader that any truck with the Congress in Bihar could pose problems for his party in Uttar Pradesh where assembly polls are due in 2017. The SP counts on Muslim votes and the scenario of sharing this space with the Congress was underlined by BJP leaders.
After the sharing of seats in Bihar, SP leaders publicly said that allotment of 40 seats to the Congress was unacceptable to them. Adding “insult” to injury, the SP was offered only five seats. That too after the NCP walked out of the grand alliance.
The BJP, on the other hand, is waiting for a rebellion in the rival camp of Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad once ticket distribution begins.
BJP leaders point out that in the last election, Lalu’s RJD contested 180 seats but this time it has only 100. Where will the 80 candidates of the last election and the new ticket hopefuls of the RJD go, they ask. The BJP hopes to see multiple platforms, outside the BJP fold, because these can split the “secular” votes of the grand alliance.
In the countdown to the elections, BJP president Amit Shah’s strategy is working on a way forward through what the party believes will be a fight between four blocs — the grand alliance led by Nitish, the NDA alliance, an alliance of the NCP-SP and a coalition of parties led by Asaduddin Owaisi, Pappu Yadav and former NCP chief Nagmani.
On the Bihar map, the BJP has drawn three battle zones. Of the 243 assembly seats, 40 seats have been allotted to the Congress and the BJP believes these will be the “easiest to win” given the absence of Congress at the grassroots level.
The BJP thinks the 100 seats in the RJD kitty will be the real test, a challenge greater than the 100 being contested by the JD(U). It believes that Yadav voters of the RJD, traditionally against Nitish, could vote for SP and others in constituencies allotted to JD(U).