It was a rally that has not been seen in Uttar Pradesh for almost 25 years. A sea of blue BSP and red SP flags and caps, alternate slogans of “Mayawati zindabad” and “Mulayam Singh zindabad” and supporters sporting paraphernalia of both parties — badges, posters and banners.
They have always been fierce rivals, but when SP founder Mulayam Singh Yadav and BSP chief Mayawati came together in Mainpuri in a show of strength and bonhomie, a rally like this had not been seen in UP. And with the two leaders sharing the same stage and politely referring to one another in their speeches, the chemistry translated to the teeming crowds of party workers.
In the media enclosure, Dev Singh (70) constantly scribbled notes on a piece of paper. He said he did not want to be thrown out of the enclosure and just wants to catch a glimpse of the two leaders together. “Humko bus dono netaon ko saath mein dekhna hai (I just want to see the two leaders together),” Dinesh said in a whisper. His enthusiasm resonated across the venue. Workers of both parties were seen moving around together sporting the blue and red of the parties.
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Sporting an SP flag over his shoulder, Dharamveer Yadav, a 55-year-old farmer from Mainpuri, said the alliance was required to defeat the BJP. “Becoming friends with someone who helps you in a time of need is fine. This alliance was necessary to defeat the BJP,” he said claiming to have attended every SP rally in Mainpuri since 1994.
Asked about Mayawati campaigning for Mulayam, he said, “She is a big leader and so is he. If they are together, it only makes them stronger,” he said. Next to him is Ram Nath Singh (72), a Dalit and a BSP supporter. “She is our leader. If she asks us to vote for someone, we will. Mulayam is also a good leader who has carried out development in Mainpuri,” he said.
Mayawati even referred to the ‘Guest House’ incident of 1995 when SP workers allegedly attacked her ending the SP-BSP coalition of 1993. Mayawati said she had put that incident behind her for “the country and people”. And this was all Singh needed. “Agar behenji ne bhula diya, toh hum kaun hote hain (If Behenji has forgotten, who are we to hold on to the grudge).”
Asked about the top issues for the Lok Sabha polls in Mainpuri, another BSP supporter Suman Devi, whose husband is a farmer, said farmers were suffering the most. “This election is about the issues of farmers,” she said.
As the rally comes to an end and the leaders leave in their helicopters, a group of SP and BSP workers from different villages in Mainpuri is headed to the exit. They say in unison that the SP and BSP are one now. “Yeh lag toh raha tha ki atoot rishta hai. Aaj yakeen ho gaya (It seemed like an unbreakable bond, today, we are confident that it is), said the group of men who have come from their villages in a tractor.
Another man in the group, Kishan, a farmer, said Mainpuri had been looking forward to this day for a while. “Aaj ka din bahot utsah bhara tha. Ab khatam. Hum vote de kar dhanyawaad denge (Today was an exciting day and now it is over. Now, we will thank the leaders by voting for them),” he said. He refused to divulge the party he supported. “Ab toh sab ek hai, kya faayda? (Now it is all one. How does it matter?)”