Mayawati has tied up with the Akali Dal in Punjab for the assembly elections there next year, calling it a “historic alliance”. But the alliance that the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) really needs to save its political existence and to challenge the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is in Uttar Pradesh for the 2022 polls.
The last time BSP had an alliance in Uttar Pradesh was for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections with the Samajwadi Party. The BSP put up its best performance since 2009, winning 10 seats. The alliance won 15 seats out of 80 in UP with a 40 percent vote share and though many termed the alliance as a failure, the fact remains that this was then the best performance by the Opposition in any state in the heartland (besides Punjab) against the BJP.
In the logical course of events, the same should have been seen as a stepping stone by both the partners for the 2022 assembly elections in UP, the one that actually mattered. The 2019 polls were an election simply about electing Narendra Modi as the next prime minister or not. So when Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav said from the stage that their alliance will give the country a new prime minister, not many could have believed them.
But the chances were that if the former CMs Akhilesh and Mayawati as partners in 2022 said that their alliance will give Uttar Pradesh a new chief minister, many more voters could be all ears. However, Mayawati staying true to her temperamental ways, snapped the alliance unilaterally soon after the Lok Sabha elections though it was clear as sunlight to all that the Samajwadi Party had helped transfer its votes to help the BSP win the 10 seats.
Both sides have since hardened their stands with Akhilesh and Mayawati both saying they will fight the elections without allying again, denying the creation of a formidable caste combination-cum-alliance like that of Nitish Kumar’s JD (U) and Lalu Prasad’s RJD in Bihar in 2015 that had stopped the BJP in its tracks. In UP, nothing pleases the BJP and CM Yogi Adityanath more than a prospect of the anti-incumbency vote being split.
BSP in Dire Straits, Patchy Record at Alliances
Since snapping the alliance with the SP, the BSP seems to have hit rock-bottom with Mayawati being on a firing spree. It has only seven MLAs left in the state assembly now after 11 out of the 19 MLAs who won in 2017 have been sacked by the party chief and one lost in a by-poll. The latest to be sacked were BSP’s leader in the assembly Lalji Verma and national general secretary Ram Achal Rajbhar, both MLAs as well. The BSP has seen four state presidents since 2017 and four different leaders in Lok Sabha since 2019.
The BSP performed poorly in the recent panchayat elections and has lost its big faces like Nassimuddin Siddiqui, Swami Prasad Maurya and Brajesh Pathak to other parties. The party's changes at the top seem to smack of appeasement as first MP Danish Ali was removed as Lok Sabha leader only to bring him back before being replaced again by MP Ritesh Pandey. State president Munquad Ali was similarly removed to make way for Bhim Rajbhar.
Though the Punjab alliance with Akali Dal has been described by both partners as a ‘game-changer’ in Punjab, the fact remains that the BSP has been a poor performer in alliances outside Uttar Pradesh. The BSP’s alliance with Ajit Jogi in the Chhattisgarh elections in 2018 failed spectacularly, winning just seven seats out of 90. The BSP also tied up with the INLD in Haryana for the 2019 assembly elections before the same collapsed as the INLD split and Mayawati’s party later scored a blank in Haryana. The BSP's six MLAs who won in Rajasthan in the 2018 elections there shifted their loyalty to the Congress.
The opportunity for the BSP lies only in Uttar Pradesh where an alliance with the SP could breathe energy into the listless opposition in the state. Both parties feel that given the cycle of change in power in UP, they stand a chance to knock out the BJP on their own, especially as while the BJP still seems unassailable in a national election, it remains vulnerable in state elections.The SP-BSP alliance was still to be tested where it may have been the most effective in a state election. Re-aligning their forces to consolidate their caste vote base could perhaps give them their only chance come 2022. But will Mayawati take the onus of reaching out to Akhilesh for a ‘game-changer’? The bets are this won’t happen given both Mayawati and Akhilesh see themselves as the CM face. The much-acclaimed Bua-Bhatija (nephew-aunt) relationship fails the test when it comes to the CM's Kursi (chair).