Next Mahagathbandhan in Uttar Pradesh? Poll dynamics show BJP should sit back and let Opposition ‘unity’ unravel
Two days ago, Amit Shah said that the alliance between Samjawadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) will be a challenge for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh.
Two days ago, BJP national president Amit Shah said that the alliance between Samjawadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) will be a challenge for the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) in 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
If we consider the figures from the 2014 Lok Sabha results, this alliance certainly appears to be a roadblock for the BJP at the macro level. The SP-BSP combine represents 41.8 percent of the total votes polled, which is certainly a formidable vote share. However, in the same elections the BJP clocked a vote share of 42.30 percent, which was still higher than the SP-BSP combine. But add Congress's vote share — 7.5 precent — also to the grand alliance and the arithmetic of such an alliance suddenly looks much stronger, and much more than what the BJP could achieve in 2014 at the peak of the Modi wave.
However, before arriving at a direct conclusion in a state like Uttar Pradesh, it is also important to consider the election dynamics of the state. A Member of Parliament from Uttar Pradesh on an average represents more number of people in the Lok Sabha than any other state. Thus, the politics involved in winning such an election is obviously more nuanced and complicated. The first such complication arises in the allocation of tickets. In any party, there will be at least half a dozen capable candidates to vying to contest each Lok Sabha seat.
This complication is further aggravated when SP, BSP, and Congress decide to contest elections together in 2019 as is being claimed right now. To analyse this situation further, election results of 2009 Lok Sabha are enlightening. In the two decades preceding 2014, BJP wasn't a key player in the elections in Uttar Pradesh and BSP, SP and Congress fought each other for electoral dominance in the state.
Out of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in 2009 elections, 11 constituencies were newly created. In the remaining 69 seats, 42 were wrested by BSP, SP, and Congress from each other. This means that at least for these 42 seats, there are at least two winnable candidates with the different constituents of the touted Mahagathbandhan.
This analysis does not take into account the performance of Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) because it has now joined forces against the BJP but in 2009 it was fighting the elections in alliance with the BJP. However, RLD had bagged five Lok Sabha seats in 2009 elections; including these will take the tally of such swing seats to 36. This problem is further aggravated when there are multiple strong candidates in each party individually.
Looking at this, we can be sure that there will be severe infighting among the constituents of Mahagathbandhan in the division of tickets, because over 50 percent seats are winnable by more than one parties. Naturally, they will be reluctant to give away the seat to another party.
This is visible if we look at the recent remarks of BSP supremo Mayawati. She has voiced her suspicions about getting a fair share of seats and has asked her party to be ready to go solo in the upcoming elections.
Moreover, the nature of the 'grand alliance' in Uttar Pradesh is very different from Bihar, where the traditional voters of both RJD and JD(U) — Yadavs, Muslims and Kurmis — were more or less socially coherent. The mutual animosity between them, if any, was surpassable. However, in Uttar Pradesh there is sufficient hostility between Muslims and Yadavs on one hand and the Dalits on the other. This means the transfer of vote share of one party to another is not so easy.
The bypoll results of Phulpur and Gorapkhpur have given an impetus to the proponents of the theory that Mahagathbandhan can trump BJP. However, when we individually analyse the elections in both the constituencies, it is clear that there was no rivalry between the SP and BSP on the issue of ticket distribution.
In Phuplur, the BSP has almost been a non-entity for its entire existence — except in 2009 when it had won the seat but its MP from that election, Kapil Muni Karwariya, is currently serving a sentence and is debarred from contesting elections. Also, the dynamics of the constituency changed in 2008 when large parts of Allahabad Lok Sabha constituency were included in Phuplur, where SP has been a dominant force. Therefore, it was easy for the BSP to give way to SP in Phuplur.
In Gorakhpur too, the BJP had held the seat since 1991. Therefore, there was virtually no presence of any other political party, ruling out much discontent amid cadres of either parties. The ticket was ultimately given to Praveen Kumar Nishad, who is effectively not even a part of SP. He contested the elections on SP's election symbol when his father, the founder of Nishad party, joined forces with the Akhilesh Yadav-led party.
Therefore, it is highly unlikely that a coalition of SP and BSP can even come into existence for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Even if it does, it will come at the cost of upsetting party workers, who will feel disgruntled over ticket distribution and seat sharing.
Such disgruntlement amid the ranks and file of Mahagathbandhan constituents will serve as a fertile ground for the BJP to expand their footprint. Hence, in the long run, a grand alliance would benefit the BJP more than the harm it could cause to the party.
It is therefore in the interest of the BJP that it allows the Opposition in Uttar Pradesh to form a coalition. It should in the meantime, sit back and enjoy the show.
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