While the BSP was offering outside support to the Gehlot government, this move, according to BSP leaders and observers, was unexpected
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Rajasthan received a jolt around midnight on September 17 after all six of its legislators in the state decided to cross over to the Congress. According to reports, the BSP MLAs were in touch with Rajasthan Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot, for days before they switched over.
"We took a decision in order to fight against communal forces and to work for the development of the state and stability of the government," Rajendra Gudd, a BSP lawmaker from Udaipurwati, told news agency ANI.
"Ashok ji is the best Chief Minister and no one can be better than him for Rajasthan. I was impressed with his style of working and polity," Gudd said.
While the BSP was offering outside support to the Gehlot government ever since Congress came to power last year, this move, according to BSP leaders and observers, was unexpected.
What it means for Congress
For starters, the six MLAs joining Congress means that the latter's strength in the Assembly has increased from 100 to 106.
While the Assembly elections in the state did not exactly result in a close contest between Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)— which won 73 seats— the Grand Old Party, with 100 seats, just about managed to reach the halfway mark (Rajasthan has 200 Assembly seats).
With the BSP legislators entering its fold, the Congress's tally is now above the halfway mark— not much, but, experts state, enough to avoid a BJP attempt to destabilise the government.
The development also comes ahead of the municipal elections in the state, scheduled for November. According to a report by the Hindu, the party has been working on selection of candidates, local issues and manifestos since August for the civic polls, and BSP lawmakers switching over to Congress offers a boost— and positive optics— for the party.
According to experts, the civic polls are also important for both the Gehlot and the Pradesh Congress chief Sachin Pilot camps. There have been reports of infighting between the two leaders, and a Hindustan Times report states that it was Gehlot who had planned the operation at a dinner on September 15. With the addition in Congress' numbers in Rajasthan, Gehlot, observers state, is also trying to firm up his clout in the state unit of the party.
What it means for BSP
Reports suggest that the BSP leadership in Rajasthan was caught off-guard by the development. "We only came to know when they met the Speaker," BSP state in-charge for Rajasthan, DharamVir Singh Ashok, said.
BSP chief Mayawati had hit out at Congress, calling the party "untrustworthy" and "cheaters".
"The Congress government in Rajasthan by splitting BSP MLAs has once again given a proof of it being untrustworthy and cheaters. This is cheating against the BSP movement which has happened again when the BSP was already giving unconditional outside support to the Congress government," Mayawati said in a series of tweets.
The BSP had secured three seats during the 2013 Assembly polls in Rajasthan, and while the party had managed to secure three more seats during the 2018 polls, it did not mean much in terms of the expansion of its base in the state.
For instance, the vote share of the party increased only from 3.37 percent in 2013 to 4 percent in 2018— a decrease from the 7.6 percent it had managed to gain in the 2008 polls.
"The success of BSP is credited much to candidates' personal influence than to the party base," Rajendra Singh Khangarot, a political analyst had told the Economic Times. BSP leaders in the state had agreed with the analysis, which effectively means that with the BSP legislators shifting to Congress, the Mayawati-led party does not really lose base in the state.
What it means for BSP-Congress relations
In addition to that, the switch might also affect the BSP's relations with Congress. Reports had been suggesting that Congress was looking to ally with BSP for the forthcoming Haryana Assembly polls, but with this development, that deal— if it was ever in the making— might be off.In May this year, Mayawati had warned Congress that she would reconsider BSP's support to Congress in Madhya Pradesh after a lawmaker from her party had crossed over to the Congress fold. The Kamal Nath-led government in MP has a slim majority in the Assembly.
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