“Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war” – Donald Trump
Indeed, the Samajwadi Party thinks like Donald Trump. The party, which looked defaced and defiled almost completely in the wake of its continued internal feud, now believes that it can dash first past the post in a multi-cornered contest in the battleground of Uttar Pradesh by copying Bihar’s winning modus operandi — ‘mahagathbandhan’ (grand alliance).
And don’t be shocked if this strife-torn party does find itself placed on the verge of winning the war. Just like Donald Trump. It’s politics. And you never know, anything can happen in chaotic UP or, for that matter, an even more confused USA.
Talk to any top SP leader worth his salt and he would tell you that his party had, in the past six weeks, fallen way behind the BSP and the BJP because of two reasons: crisis of image and crumbling vote-bank. He would also tell you that Muslims, who had almost always stood behind the party in the past 25 years, are now an uncertain lot. Many of them have already drifted towards Mayawati’s BSP, more so in western part of the state. The Muslim-Yadav vote bank of ‘Maulana Mulayam’ has almost fallen apart, giving way to a new Dalit-Muslim axis.
What’s then the way out of this morass for the SP? Mahagathbandhan? Yes, probably. For, only a formidable looking grand alliance with Lalu Prasad Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Choudhary Ajit Singh and Rahul Gandhi on board can have the potential of halting the exodus of Muslims. And if Muslims do remain with Mulayam’s party, the war is almost won. As simple as that without any doubt.
You may now understand why the foundation day festival of the Samajwadi Party was turned into a show of solidarity by different offshoots of the socialist family — RJD, JD(U), JD(S), RLD and INLD. All the visiting leaders who came to Lucknow to grace the occasion vowed to beat the BJP this time come what may. "Just as a jackal is made to flee from the village, we shall see to it that the BJP is driven out of UP," Lalu Prasad Yadav said, gloating over the fact that Amit Shah’s party had suffered humiliation in Bihar in 2015.
Clearly, the main aim of the organisers of the Lucknow function was to give the impression that the ‘mahagathbandhan’ would, when formed, stand for secularism in general and anti-Modism in particular. By doing this they think that the Muslim vote-bank remained united in favour of the grand secular outfit.
But it’s easier said than done.
Alarmed over the development, Mayawati swung into action equally fast. She addressed a press conference the same day to make it clear that "a vote to the SP, in effect, means a vote to the BJP". She reiterated what she had been saying earlier: "There is a latent understanding between the SP and the BJP." From her tone and tenor, it was clear that the BSP supremo was essentially trying to convey to the Muslim masses the reason why they should stick to her and not SP.
What was also clear was that Mayawati would leave no stone unturned from now on to protect her Dalit-Muslim axis. Apparently reaching out to the prospective constituents of the ‘mahagathbandhan’, she pleaded that an alliance with SP would mean strengthening the BJP — a party that’s known for its anti-Dalit, anti-Muslim credentials.
Even for the BJP, the Muslim issue occupies top-of-the-mind-slot. It was not for nothing that they flagged off their ‘parivartan yatra’ from Saharanpur. The choice of Saharanpur as starting point of their election campaign says it all. According to Sanjay Singh of Firstpost, "this particular western UP district is known for its near equal ratio of Hindu’s and Muslims. As per 2011 census, around 51 percent of the population is Hindu and 46 percent is Muslim. It’s also adjacent to Kairana, the famed site for Hindu ‘exodus’, where BJP had claimed that Hindus were being forced to sell off or lease their property and migrate to different parts of the country".
Obviously, the BJP is working towards polarisation. They know that they wouldn’t have come to power at the Centre in 2014, if the Hindu-Muslim polarisation had not taken place in wake of the Muzaffarnagar riots. True, without 73 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats from UP in their kitty, Narendra Modi wouldn’t have been the Prime Minister today.
The BJP’s calculation is simple: there will be a Hindu backlash in the event of Muslim solidarity. And if the Muslims are divided, their path is easier. All the more.