Uttar Pradesh Assembly election: Will Congress and BSP attack SP or BJP?

With the results of the Assembly elections in four states having given a boost to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the focus is set to quickly shift to Uttar Pradesh where election to the 403-member Assembly is likely to be held early 2017. As campaigning would take a more aggressive tone in coming months, the dilemma of all non-BJP parties is simple: do they target the BJP for a state election where the BJP is not in power? Or, target the ruling Samajwadi Party at the risk of appearing soft towards the BJP?

While the BJP seems to be taking its ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ campaign seriously, such a campaign will be ridiculous in UP as Congress is not the main rival: it has been out of power for close to three decades. In UP, the BJP will have to give a twist to the slogan to include Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in it.

File photo of Akhilesh Yadav. PTI

File photo of Akhilesh Yadav. PTI

On the other hand, for the BSP and Congress, their campaigning may have to focus more on attacks against the SP government headed by Akhilesh Yadav rather than targeting BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi as has been the case till now. Both SP president Mulayam Singh Yadav and BSP chief Mayawati have, in their frequent public appearances and statements in UP, preferred to target BJP and Modi even when talking about state’s affairs. So much so that even Akhilesh refers to his government’s development “achievements” vis-à-vis Modi government’s accomplishments when seeking support for another term.

But with poor policing and rising crime set to acquire important dimensions in the forthcoming election campaign, it remains to be seen whether BSP and Congress will continue with their anti-BJP tirade, thus giving a respite to the SP. A BJP spokesman said that the BJP’s promise of a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ was taking shape all over India but in UP, the party aimed to give an alternative to the “goondaism and corruption” of previous BSP and present SP governments. “If people are indeed looking for a change, then they would look for a party which raises anti-SP issues more aggressively, rather than attacking BJP for the sake of ideological opposition,” he said.

As the political focus is now set to shift towards UP where election is due early next year, a realignment of sorts could be in the making with indications that the BJP would initiate its UP campaign more aggressively than before in view of the Assam verdict and gains in other states. The BJP is also likely to present the argument that parties that sided with the Congress suffered in the recent Assembly elections.

This might trigger a rethink in the Congress to launch an all-out assault on the SP, rather than occasionally side with the latter in the garb of strengthening “anti-communal” forces. During the UPA regime both the SP and BSP had on more than one occasion helped the Congress corner the BJP during discussion on various issues. In the latest such instance, the BSP extended support in the crucial floor test in the Uttarakhand Assembly to help the beleaguered Congress Chief Minister Harish Rawat win his battle against the BJP.

However, within SP there is a difference of opinion with a large section feeling that it is too early to write off the Congress. But as long as the SP president Mulayam Singh Yadav does not make a definitive statement in this regard, other leaders in the party are not willing to be identified with their statements. For this section of SP leaders, the larger issue of secularism versus communalism makes it imperative for all like-minded parties to come together to fight the BJP-RSS combine. “The decimation of the Congress is nothing but propaganda of BJP and RSS,” said an SP leader, adding that the performance of the Congress had actually improved in terms of numbers, rising from five to eight in Tamil Nadu and from 42 to 44 in West Bengal.

On the other hand, the BSP might need to express its distancing from the Congress more clearly and assertively since rumours of its alliance with the Congress surface regularly. Mayawati also appears to be a little soft towards Congress in her pronouncements, reserving the venom only for the BJP. The SP, on the other hand, has made it clear that it will not ally with any party for the 2017 Assembly election. The situation, however, is emerging quite to the liking of the BJP. With little possibilities of any alliance involving the SP, BSP and the Congress, strategists in the BJP are confident that this would help the party. All parties stand to benefit from making the election appear as a one-against-one contest. This gives the impression that only these two parties are strong enough contenders while the others are not worth consideration. The BSP claims its main rival is only the BJP and not the SP; the SP, too, claims its main rival is only the BJP and not the BSP.

This multiplicity of parties has in the past several elections helped the BSP and the SP alternately. But this time, the BJP, buoyed by its government at the Centre and recent gains, may force the hand of Congress and BJP in taking a clearer stand against the SP. It remains to be seen ultimately who benefits by this game of one-upmanship.

Updated Date: May 21, 2016 17:29 PM

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