Putting 23 years of animosity behind to work together, the SP-BSP alliance in Uttar Pradesh has managed to cause a minor dent in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s 2014 tally, according to latest trends, but may fail to throw a spanner in the formation of an NDA government at the Centre. The Mahagathbandhan is presently leading in 16 seats (BSP-11, SP-8) while the BJP is in the driver’s seat in 59 seats. BJP’s UP count in the last election was a staggering 71 of the 80 seats in the fray.
Despite a slip in seat tally, it seems the appeal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has managed to dissolve the rigid caste barrier, the basis of vote pattern in the state so far. Even during election campaigns, BJP leaders had assessed that there’s a fierce contest with the Mahagathbandhan of SP, BSP and RLD. Congress was ahead only in one seat in Uttar Pradesh, with party president Rahul Gandhi trailing BJP’s Smriti Irani in Amethi by nearly 9,000 votes.
While most of the pollsters gave BJP a strong edge in the state, Republic TV-Cvoter survey predicted the Mahagathbandhan will win 40 seats in UP. It gave BJP 38 seats and the Congress just two.
The BJP won Bahraich and Gorakhpur seats, while Apna Dal wrested Roberstganj. The BSP won Nagina Lok Sabha seat. Gorakhpur seat was wrested by BJP’s Ravi Kishan, defeating SP’s Rambhual Nishad by a margin of 3,01,664 votes. In the by-election, the seat was won by the SP-BSP combine.
The SP-BSP pact is anchored in the 1993 experiment when the alliance stitched by Mulayam Singh Yadav and Kanshiram had stopped the BJP from returning to power in Uttar Pradesh post the Babri demolition.
While the BJP won 177 seats to emerge as the single largest party in the house of 425, the SP-BSP combine bagged 176 seats (SP-109 and BSP- 67) and formed the government with the support of Congress, CPI (M) and CPI.
However, the alliance was short-lived and ended in 1995 after the infamous Guest House incident. An unruly mob of SP workers had stormed into the Meerabai Guest House here where Mayawati was holding a meeting with her MLAs. Mayawati’s room was vandalised, she was abused and allegedly beaten up. It was then that the BSP joined hands with the BJP to form the government in the state, becoming sworn enemy of the SP.
Twenty-four years later, the alliance sealed by Mayawati and Akhilesh in January, with BSP contesting in 38 and SP in 37 seats, transcended the 1995 Guest House episode and the allegations of misuse of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act against Yadavs during Mayawati’s regime.
According to the deal, BSP got 10 of the 17 seats reserved for Scheduled Castes — its core vote base — and also contested most of the seats in western Uttar Pradesh. The Samajwadi Party, on the other hand, fielded candidates on seats such as Etah, Mainpuri, Kannauj and Etawah – considered to be Yadav strongholds.
The parties, however, kept the Congress out of the alliance, saying that past elections had shown that while the SP and the BSP were able to transfer their votes in favour of the Grand Old Party, the reverse has not been true.
“In the past, I have seen that our votes get transferred to the Congress, but not vice-versa. We do not gain from an alliance with the Congress, whereas the vote transfer is perfect in an SP-BSP tie-up,” Mayawati had said while announcing the alliance.
Besides their bid to stop the BJP juggernaut in UP, where the saffron party also trumped the regional satraps in the Assembly elections by winning 325 seats, the SP-BSP alliance was also centred around both the parties being politically relevant.
Mayawati has now been out of power for six years in Uttar Pradesh (from three-fourth of the seats in 2007) and has a shrinking footprint in the rest of the country. The SP saw a fall to 47 seats in the 2017 Assembly elections from 224 five years ago.
The roots of the SP-BSP-RLD alliance was laid following the 100 per cent success rate the Gathbandhan had with the tie-up experiment in 2018, where it won bypoll contests in Gorakhpur, Phulpur (vacated by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and by his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya respectively) and Kairana Lok Sabha seats.
The experiment was a success because both the parties managed in bringing Yadav and Dalit voters on the same platform in a short duration. In 2014, enchanted by the Narendra Modi magic that had unleashed across the country, Yadavs and Dalits went with the BJP.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the SP got 2.26 lakh votes and the BSP 1.76 lakh votes in Gorakhpur (a total of 4.02 lakh); while in Phulpur, their share was 1.95 lakh votes and 1.63 lakh votes respectively (total 3.58 lakh). In the 2018 by-elections, the BSP-supported SP got 4.56 lakh votes in Gorakhpur and 3.42 lakh votes in Phulpur.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said the ‘farzi friendship’ of the SP and BSP would fall apart the day election results are announced, Akhilesh and Mayawati have asserted that their alliance was for the future of the country. Despite the acrimonious campaigning between the two sides, the BSP-SP-RLD alliance has managed to give the national party a tough time in Uttar Pradesh.