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Return of an era with Gorakhpur-Phulpur bypolls: Will Akhilesh-Mayawati's SP-BSP team stop BJP's power politics in Uttar Pradesh

Lucknow: In Uttar Pradesh politics, there are no permanent friends, or foes. Sunday's (11 March) bypolls in Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha constituencies saw Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) going to elections together, united against the saffron front in its citadel. Such an alliance had last transpired following sacking of Kalyan Singh’s government in the aftermath of demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992.

The monk member of Parliament who left Gorakhpur vacant to take over larger role of state’s chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, has campaigned excessively to maintain the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP's ) pride in by-elections being held ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The voter turnout was dismal with Gorakhpur and Phulpur recording only 43 percent and 37.39 percent voting, respectively, according to state election officials. Initial complaints of EVM malfunctioning were attended to and alternate arrangements made, the EC officials said. Media reports cited the approaching Lok Sabha elections as a reason behind low voter turnout.

Akhilesh Yadav's SP and Mayawati's BSP joined hands for crucial Phulpur and Gorakhpur bypolls in Uttar Pradesh.

Akhilesh Yadav's SP and Mayawati's BSP joined hands for crucial Phulpur and Gorakhpur bypolls in Uttar Pradesh.

After casting his vote on Sunday, Adityanath charged upon the alliance between SP and BSP, terming it “negative politics, politics of bargaining and politics of opportunism." He went on to promote his party's focus on development and administration.

That Akhilesh Yadav's SP and Mayawati's BSP have entered a pact to contest the two seats in unison has unsettled the BJP enough to recognise the threat, more prominently in Phulpur than in Gorakhpur, which has been under Adityanath’s clutches last five elections, after his mentor Avaidyanath had entered the Parliament representing this constituency thrice.

Diminishing the SP-BSP pact, the chief minister said his party would have only benefited if Congress too, was a part of the alliance, PTI reported.

Resurrection Round

Akhilesh and Mayawati ‘artificially resuscitated’ their parties by re-calibrating political equations. Arch-rivals, SP and BSP exhibited a blatant disdain for each other after the infamous ‘guest house incident’ of 1995, in which Mayawati was kept captive allegedly by SP supporters and an attempt was made on her life.

Ever since, the Dalit leader had stayed away from pre-poll alliances with SP. This is, however, the first time she has chosen to support SP candidates. The joint purpose, obviously, was to prevent BJP from winning Gorakhpur and Phulpur seats.

It was in 1993, when BSP and SP had succeeded in preventing BJP from coming to power in Uttar Pradesh and Mulayam Singh Yadav had managed to bag the chief minister's post. On 2 June, 1995, Mayawati was kept captive at the state guest house in Lucknow by SP supporters, who misbehaved with her and threatened her for life. It was because her party, a day before, had called off an alliance with then SP chief Mulayam. A day later, she formed government in the state with the help of BJP.

Mayawati has on various occasions termed this incident as the “most humiliating experience of her life”. But, performances of both the parties in recent elections in the state seem to have prompted them to consider coming together to regain the lost political ground.

Out of the 403 assembly seats in Uttar Pradesgh, Akhilesh-led SP stopped at 47 seats despite being in power for five years and having formed an alliance with Congress, which could only count till seven. While BSP won 19 seats, the ruling BJP walked in the House with 312 seats.

While in the 2017 Panchayat elections, the BJP registered win on 14 mayoral seats out of 16 and the BSP won on the Aligarh seat alone.

‘This isn’t formal alliance’

Congress leader Beni Prasad Verma, who was in SP and a strong hand of Mulayam then, says that party leaders are wise enough to decide if an alliance will work in their favour or not.

“The situation now is very different from then (1993). Phulpur was never a BJP seat. They won this seat in 2014 due to Modi wave or whatever.We should wait for the results to come,” Verma says. “While Akhilesh is young and smart enough to understand the need of the hour, I am not sure about the BSP chief. But, I do believe BJP will face defeat,” he adds.

BSP leader Ambika Chaudhary says his party has only extended support to the SP but not entered into any formal alliance. “Our support is for stopping the BJP in this poll. Party supremo will decide on the next step,” he says.

According to Ratan Mani Lal, a senior journalist and senior political commentator, this is not an alliance but an arrangement between the parties on a ‘give and take’ term. He says that in 1994, a blueprint of alliance was made by both the parties, with the mediation of Kanshiram. “The fine print of 1994 alliance had formal arrangement of joint campaigning, formation of government, heading of government by rotation, distribution of ministerial portfolios and regular coordination between the parties to sort out the differences. But this time nothing such has been done,” Lal says.

He adds that BSP never contests bypolls but has supported SP candidates only to seek favor from the latter in sending one of their candidates in the upper house (Rajya Sabha).

Unlike their alliance in 1994, both parties have not held any joint meeting or even acknowledged taking support from the other.

The only common factor in this alliance between 1994 and 2018 is BJP’s strong position. It was enjoying popular support in the aftermath of 1992 (Babri demolition) and is strong at present as well, Lal says.

Lucknow-based senior journalist Hemant Tiwari says the ‘so-called’ alliance between Akhilesh and Mayawati is an experiment ahead of the 2019 LS polls.

He says both the leaders are obsessed with self-progression and do not believe in giving others a chance to rise. For example, Akhilesh tried his best to expel his uncle Shivpal Singh Yadav from the Samajwadi Party, while Mayawati never ever gave anyone a chance to rise within the BSP.

“Since Mayawati made it clear that this alliance was based on give-and-take relationship, it would be very interesting to see how these people will compromise on seat-sharing when the crucial Lok Sabha general elections are announced,” he says, adding that the alliance definitely made BJP feel uneasy a bit.

Coming of a third front

Rajan Pandey, a New Delhi-based political analyst, says an alliance with Mayawati was imminent in order to protect and utilise her voter base. “In other words, we can say that this alliance is an attempt to bring the Dalits and the OBC voters together to disrupt the saffron surge,” Pandey, who has authored Battleground Uttar Pradesh, points out.

He says it would not be easy for both the leaders to woo voters when people are falling for what they call “progressive politics and politics of development.”

“The pitch is not at all easy for any party and the winning margin might not make a big difference. The game would have been something else if both Akhilesh and Mayawati had together campaigned,” he says, adding that the alliance also seemed to be a desperate move by the BSP as the party had never fought local bodies’ polls on party symbol.

The results are definitely going to tell the future of politics in India, remarks psephologist Shravan Verma.

“If the alliance manages to win, there is a strong chance that a third front might emerge, otherwise regional parties will have to fight for their existence. And this won’t be easy when the dominant party is ruling in most of the states across the country,” he adds.

Shalabh Mani Tripathi, Uttar Pradesh BJP spokesperson, says that Gorakhpur and Phulpur by-elections were not a challenge for his party as the opposition had totally lost ground in the state.

“People of the state have lost trust in SP, BSP and other regional parties. They now vote for change,” he says, calling the alliance between two parties a “marriage of convenience”.

Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee chief Raj Babbar is of the view that coming together of SP and BSP could not be termed as ‘gathbandhan’. At best it was a sort of an opportunistic alliance which may or may materialise in proper pre-poll alliance, he says.

The real picture would emerge after the poll results are declared, Babbar points out, while admitting that his party’s general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad had spoken to Akhilesh, but the latter did not show any inclination to take Congress along.

The authors are Uttar Pradesh-based freelance writers and members of, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters

Updated Date: Mar 12, 2018 16:07 PM

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