Sitting below a banner where B R Ambedkar and ‘Jai Bhim’ shared space with Ram Manohar Lohia and ‘Jai Samajwad’, BSP chief Mayawati and Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav on Saturday announced their alliance for the coming Lok Sabha elections. The two parties would contest 38 seats each in Uttar Pradesh, leaving the two Congress bastions of Rae Bareli and Amethi, and keeping two seats aside for any future allies.
The alliance was the “rajnaitik kranti (political revolution) of 2019”, Mayawati said at a joint press conference, adding that it would cause the “guru-chela”, in a reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, to “lose sleep”. She also said the tie-up was “permanent” and would continue for the Assembly elections. Akhilesh, who read out from a paper instead of speaking extempore as he normally does, said he had been ready to take the back seat for the sake of the alliance, but that “Behenji” had given him equal space.
The tie-up marks the coming together of the two bitter rivals after nearly a quarter century of hostility, for the biggest prize in the general elections, Uttar Pradesh. Of the 80 seats in the state — comprising nearly a sixth of the Lok Sabha — the BJP and its allies scooped 73 in 2014. The alliance announced Saturday, a month after the BJP’s defeat in three other Hindi heartland states, boosts the Opposition’s hopes that its state-level arithmetic may make it harder for the BJP to get the numbers.
In her address, Mayawati twice referred to the infamous guest house incident of 1995, which had caused a previous alliance government between the SP and BSP to fall, and said she was ready to “rise above it”. Akhilesh told his workers that “respect for Mayawati was respect for me”. However, as Mayawati asserted that they were together for the long run, Akhilesh avoided a question on whether he was ready to accept her as a future prime ministerial candidate.
While the two parties did not give any indication of what other partners they were looking at, Akhilesh appeared to be more open to both the Congress and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD).
“Yeh naye varsh 2019 mein nayi rajnaitik kranti ka sandesh maana jayega (In this new year, this alliance will be seen as an indication of a new political revolution),” Mayawati, who spoke first, said, adding that the tie-up would give strength to the backwards, Dalits, the deprived, youth, labourers and Muslims. “Dono guru aur chele ki neend udane waali ati-aitihasik PC ho rahi hai (This is a historic press conference that will cause both the guru and chela to lose sleep).”
She was confident that the SP and BSP would both benefit from votes of each other, as had happened when the late Kanshi Ram and former SP president Mulayam Singh Yadav had tied up in 1993, Mayawati said.
“Lucknow guest house kaand se bhi upar rakhte hue, ek bar phir humnein usi prakar ki dooshit sampradayikta ke mahaul ko dekhte hue gathbadan ka faisla liya (Rising even above the guest house incident, seeing the same toxic communal environment, we have again decided to enter into an alliance),” Mayawati said, as Akhilesh smiled and kept quiet.
In 1993, the SP and BSP had contested together, winning 109 and 67 seats respectively, and managed to keep the BJP out of power. However, the government had fallen after two years when SP workers, on June 2, 1995, had attacked a government house where Mayawati was staying with her MLAs after withdrawing support to the Mulayam government.
Akhilesh claimed he first thought of the tie-up when the BJP gave importance to those who had shown disrespect towards “Behanji”. “Adarniya Mayawati ji ka samman mera samman hai. Agar Mayawatiji ka koi apman karta hai to mera apman hai (Respect shown towards honorable Mayawatiji is respect shown towards me. Her insult is my insult).”
The SP chief added that the BJP government had turned Uttar Pradesh into “Jaati Pradesh”, with police encounters, admission in hospitals, case registration in police stations, all being determined by a person’s religion and caste. “In the state of Ram and Krishna, the BJP has also started dividing gods into castes,” he said.
Clarifying that the Congress was not part of the alliance, Mayawati said the SP and BSP would not contest from Rae Bareli (Sonia Gandhi’s seat) and Amethi (Rahul Gandhi’s constituency) so that “BJP ke log Congress party ke adhyaksha ko yahan uljha ke naa rakh sakein (the BJP doesn’t keep the Congress president tied up here)”.
She said both the BSP in the 1996 Assembly elections and the SP in the 2017 state polls had realised that tying up with the Congress was not to their benefit as the Congress was not able to transfer its votes to them, and it had only ended up benefiting the BJP.
Mayawati also said that the BJP and Congress were no different when it came to corruption. “The country has seen defence scandals in the tenures of both. The Congress lost power due to Bofors. The BJP will lose due to Rafale.”
Akhilesh avoided a direct attack on the Congress, only saying Mayawati had clarified everything on the issue.
Mayawati compared the situation prevailing now to the Emergency during Congress rule, only without a declaration of Emergency. She also criticised the BJP for trying to implicate Akhilesh in a mining scam through the CBI.
On the RLD, both Akhilesh and Mayawati were mum, though the SP chief hinted he was ready to accommodate the party.
Critical of Mulayam’s brother Shivpal Singh Yadav, who has now formed his own outfit, Mayawati cautioned workers of both the BSP and SP against the former minister and told them not to be “confused” by him.
Asked whether he would support Mayawati as PM as she has experience, Akhilesh said, “You know whom I will support. Maine pehle bhi kaha hai aur aaj phir kehta hoon, ki Uttar Pradesh ne hamesha Pradhan Mantri diya hai aur humein khushi hogi ki Uttar Pradesh se phir ek Pradhan Mantri bane (I have said it in the past and I will say it again that Uttar Pradesh has always given a Prime Minister and I will be happy if there is a Prime Minister from Uttar Pradesh again).”