SP-BSP combine precursor to new political experiment in UP but Akhilesh-Mayawati's social coalition might not last

Political seismology is an inexact science. In the underneath of social sea, tectonic shifts happen as silently and stealthily as you can get. And any effort for its prediction often brings grief to Mr Know-all of politics.

The scenario unfolding in Uttar Pradesh conforms to this thesis. The coming together of the SP-BSP in two by-elections for Lok Sabha seats — Phulpur and Gorakhpur — is not an ordinary event that can be brushed aside. The coming together of the parties, which represent separate social combinations, is expected to have a cataclysmic impact on the politics of the state.

Now the question is : would it or won't it? There is no doubt that Samajwadi Party's Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) are fighting with their back to the wall. Divided, they realised it rather late in the day that they would be facing a virtual extinction if not political obliteration altogether. But it would be equally wrong to assume that their coming together would consolidate the social bases they represent.

Divided, they realised it rather late in the day that they would be facing a virtual extinction if not political obliteration altogether.

Divided, they realised it rather late in the day that they would be facing a virtual extinction if not political obliteration altogether.

Historically the SP symbolised the state's OBC politics in the context of the Mandal commission report in nineties. Mulayam Singh Yadav was then the tallest state leader of the OBCs whose personal charm was enough to seduce non-Yadav OBCs to the SP’s fold. An astute Mulayam was gifted with enough political cunning to realise that he would be decimated after the demolition of the Babri mosque after 6 December, 1992. He forged an alliance with Kanshi Ram’s BSP which captured the imagination of Dalits which constitute around 22 percent of the electorate.

Even then the SP-BSP alliance was seen by a large section of media with a certain amount of cynicism. In 1993 Assembly elections, this alliance was pitted not only against the BJP but also against the Janata Dal of VP Singh and the Congress. On the other hand, the BJP displayed so much irrational exuberance after the demolition of the mosque that its chief ministerial candidate Kalyan Singh declared in one of the press conferences that he would relinquish politics if the BJP could not register convincing majority. In the results, Kalyan Singh proved to be miserably wrong as the SP-BSP emerged a single largest group which claimed its right to form the government.

There is no doubt that Mulayam-Kanshi Ram combination was quite formidable. Mulayam, then, had an image, reservoir of stamina and enough sagacity to adapt to the changing scenario. On the other hand, Kanshi was a highly efficient organiser who held together his party’s social base despite many electoral setbacks in the past. His frontal organisations like BAMCEF and DS 4 acted as bulwark against any possible erosion in the Dalits’s vote share. Despite the BJP’s aggressive Hindutva campaign after demolition of the Babri mosque, the SP-BSP retained their support bases.

Contrast this with the political situation of today. Akhilesh is yet to emerge as a leader worth reckoning. His politics essentially thrives on the base provided by Mulayam.. While Mulayam was perceived to be a leader having appeal all across the state from Ghaziabad (western Uttar Pradesh) to Ghazipur (eastern Uttar Pradesh), Akhilesh has not grown in political stature despite his five-year stint as chief minister. The running family feud within the Yadav clan has substantially squandered the SP’s political capital. Similarly, scandals during Mayawati’s stints as chief minister have alienated a large section of the BSP’s Dalit support base which was assiduously built by Kanshi Ram.

On the face of it , the possibility of Akhilesh-Mayawati combination seems quite distant to take on a resurgent BJP which has expanded its base among non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav Dalits. As compared the SP and the BSP, the BJP efforts at social engineering backed by robust organisational structure is guided more by pragmatism than “irrational exuberance” of Kalyan Singh era.

As it appears today, much will depend on the outcome of by-elections in Gorakhpur and Phulpur. If the social bases of the SP-BSP indicate a sign of seamless merger against the Hindutva forces, it may encourage Akhilesh and Mayawati to undertake a new political experiment in a manner as Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav did in Bihar. Significantly, the alliance in Bihar between the JD(U) and the RJD happened only after the combination defeated the BJP in a series of by-elections before 2015. Hence the by-elections in two Lok Sabha seats could be precursor to a new political experiment in the offing in Uttar Pradesh.

Given the temperamental nature of Mayawati and cavalier political conduct of Akhilesh, it appears next to impossible if the social coalition will take off the ground. Will Mayawati play second fiddle to Akhilesh? It is highly unlikely that the BSP chief would let Akhilesh take primacy in the state’s politics. Of course given the history of hostility between both the camps, it appears quite difficult to forge a coalition of mutually acrimonious social groups and channelise them into a anti-BJP political platform. But politics often defy predictable course. And there is little doubt if the by-elections outcome pave the way for a coalition, it will indeed pose a formidable challenge to the rise of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh.

Updated Date: Apr 05, 2018 15:32 PM

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