As BSP chief Mayawati and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav come together on Saturday to announce burying of the hatchet, 24 years since the infamous guest house episode, Lok Sabha ticket hopefuls in both parties are eagerly waiting for the alliance to begin their seat-share preparations.
Leaving aside two Lok Sabha seats — Amethi and Rae Bareli — for the Congress, there are as many as 13 Lok Sabha seats where both parties may have to negotiate hard, given their performance in 2014 Lok Sabha elections against the BJP.
Why this is a signal to both BJP and Congress
The SP-BSP alliance is no less significant than the JD(S)-Congress alliance in Karnataka or the recent Congress victories in Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh. It has the potential not only to upset the BJP applecart but send the Congress a message that it cannot dictate terms to regional forces.
Considering their relative performance in 2014, the BSP polled more votes than SP in 44 Lok Sabha seats (including Amethi and Rae Bareli, which the other didn’t contest) while SP was ahead of BSP on 36 seats (including five it won). Seat allocation on the basis of the best performance among the two parties in each Lok Sabha segment would mean BSP getting 42 and SP 36 seats, while discounting two seats for Rahul and Sonia Gandhi in the state.
A look at the votes polled by both these parties suggests that the two stood behind the Congress in six Lok Sabha seats — Saharanpur, Ghaziabad, Lucknow, Kanpur, Barabanki and Kushinagar — that were won by BJP. Incidentally, BSP stood at third place in all these constituencies where Congress was runner-up behind the BJP.
Given the exclusion of Congress’ standing in these seats during the BJP wave in 2014, these seats could be expected to witness a triangular contest — BJP, Congress and SP-BSP alliance — making it tricky for either SP or BSP candidates.
Likewise, there are eight Lok Sabha seats — Salempur, Hardoi, Sultanpur, Bhadohi, Aligarh, Dhaurahra, Barabanki and Unnao — where the difference between the votes polled by the SP and BSP is less than 10,000 in 2014. Incidentally, BSP is only marginally ahead of SP in seven of these seats barring Unnao.
So, in total there are 13 Lok Sabha seats (Barabanki figures in both groups) where both parties will have to negotiate based on their shared assessment of their electoral prospects in these seats.
Apart from these, there are at least three seats — Mathura (RLD was runner up), Varanasi (AAP was runner up) and Kairana (won by RLD in bypoll last year) — where the alliance partners will have to hold deliberations for selecting winnable candidates against the BJP.
On Saturday, Mayawati will share the dais with Akhilesh almost 24 years after the “guest house incident”, in which Mayawati and her MLAs were confined to a guest house in Lucknow by Mulayam Singh Yadav-led SP. If Mulayam contests the next elections, as he has announced he would from Mainpuri, he will also get BSP’s support.
Akhilesh and Mayawati, who had been exchanging barbs of ‘Bua’ and ‘Babua’ against each other during electioneering in the last Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, will address a joint press conference in Lucknow on Saturday in the absence of RLD leaders. RLD had won the Kairana bypoll last May with support of SP, BSP and Congress. In March, the SP-BSP combine defeated BJP in Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha bypolls.
SP and BSP are unlikely to give space to the Congress in the alliance, barring Rae Bareli and Amethi. RLD is likely to get at least two seats for party president Ajit Singh and vice-president Jayant Chaudhary.
After a meeting of the top leadership of SP and BSP last week, sources said that they are likely to contest 37 seats each in UP. While selecting their seats, both parties are likely to look at who was the runner up in particular seats in 2014. The BSP was runner-up in 34 seats, and the SP in 31.
The potential of that arithmetic is appealing to both the parties for alliance. For an analysis of constituency-wise poll data of the last Assembly election in 2017 shows that the BJP may lose as many as 50 Lok Sabha seats in UP when the SP and BSP votes are combined. In fact, SP and BSP votes pooled together will translate to at least 57 of the 80 seats in the state for the alliance. In contrast, BJP gets only 23.
SP and BSP had contested Assembly elections in alliance first in 1993, and the parties had helped each other with their respective vote bank. In 1991, the BSP contested 386 seats, won 12 seat and got 35.32 lakh votes. When both parties contested in alliance in 1993, BSP got over 55 lakh votes in 164 seats it contested and SP got 89 lakh votes in 256 seats in contested. Both later formed the government with support of the Congress and Mulayam became chief minister. After around 18 months, BSP withdrew support and formed the government with support of BJP.
With a changed leadership of SP now, Mayawati hinted at a major alliance for 2019 general elections in March last year, when she welcomed Akhilesh at her residence in Lucknow. Akhilesh was visiting to thank her for supporting SP candidates in Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha bypolls. The SP-BSP combine had defeated the BJP in both the seats.