when two plus two need not be four

The op­po­si­tion’s al­liance in UP for 2019 looks like an easy math prob­lem, but there are too many vari­ables in­volved

Governance Now - - CONTENTS - Alok Rai

Op­po­si­tion al­liance in UP for 2019 looks like an easy math prob­lem, but there are too many vari­ables in­volved

The re­cent vic­tory of the op­po­si­tion in the ut­tar Pradesh by-elec­tions af­ter their com­plete dec­i­ma­tion in the 2014 gen­eral elec­tions and the 2017 as­sem­bly elec­tions has been in­ter­preted dif­fer­ently by dif­fer­ent tak­ers. Some saw it as a resur­gence of the op­po­si­tion on the back of an al­liance. This led to dis­cus­sion of the pos­si­bil­ity of a grand al­liance in up. al­liances have not been a new phe­nom­e­non in in­dian pol­i­tics. in­ter­est­ingly, they have been based on con­ve­nience, in­ten­tion and pur­suance of in­di­vid­ual in­ter­est rather than con­cept, ide­ol­ogy or pur­suance of na­tional in­ter­ests. it is for this in­her­ent ge­netic de­fect that the al­liances have also been termed as ‘team­ing up’, ‘group­ing up’ or even ‘ganging up’ against the in­cum­bent es­tab­lish­ment. The an­tecedents of such al­liances have been power, pres­sure and po­lit­i­cal ar­bi­trage.

Po­lit­i­cal al­liance as a strat­egy has been there across par­ties, ge­ogra­phies and times. But the outcome has not al­ways been arith­metic in na­ture. From the Janata Party for­ma­tion to the Ma­ha­gath­band­han ex­per­i­ment in Bi­har, it has had dif­fer­ent faces and forms in in­dian po­lit­i­cal his­tory. The unique na­ture of fed­eral polity in the coun­try and the strength­en­ing of the BJP have paved the way for newer elec­toral al­liance for the gen­eral elec­tions 2019.

Such grand al­liances of­fer syn­ergy, thereby in­creas­ing the elec­toral strength of the al­liance. But such al­liances are not free from chal­lenges. Chal­lenges of­fered are at three lev­els: one, the in­ter­nal in­con­sis­ten­cies of the al­liance part­ners, sec­ond, strate­gic loss for the big­ger con­trib­u­tor, and third, func­tional is­sues in cre­at­ing a sus­tain­able model.

The most po­lit­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant state of the coun­try, up, has wit­nessed the emer­gence of po­lit­i­cal par­ties with spe­cific so­cial ap­peals. The fall of the congress led to the emer­gence of the BJP in the state courtesy the Ram Mandir move­ment. in the post-man­dal era, sa­ma­jwadi Party be­came a po­lit­i­cal force to reckon with, backed by other back­ward classes. in the quest for power in a state with the max­i­mum sc votes, Bahu­jan sa­maj Party in­creased its base and re­sources af­ter align­ing with sp and the BJP.

The com­pul­sions of con­tem­po­rary pol­i­tics forced both the sp and the BSP to rein­vent them­selves through so­cial reengi­neer­ing. The BSP, which was pri­mar­ily per­ceived as a party rep­re­sent­ing sched­uled castes, suc­cess­fully weaved a strate­gic al­liance with brah­mins in the 2007 as­sem­bly elec­tions and mus­tered power in the state. a re­ju­ve­nated BJP un­der the lead­er­ship of Modi and shah brought brah­mins back to the BJP and the an­noyed scs of the state also de­serted the BSP, caus­ing her to lose in 2012, score 0/80 in the 2014 lok sabha and 19/403 in the 2017 as­sem­bly elec­tions.

The sp in the 2012 state elec­tions donned a new avatar un­der the lead­er­ship of the young and ed­u­cated akhilesh Ya­dav and won. The lim­i­ta­tion of the po­lit­i­cal vi­sion of akhilesh Ya­dav repo­si­tioned sp from a so­cial­ist party led by obcs to a mod­ern high­way/ metro party led by Ya­davs. The big­gest

There have been in­stances of suc­cess­ful al­liances in In­dian po­lit­i­cal his­tory, but they have been largely char­ac­terised by the dom­i­nance of one party or a leader act­ing as glue to hold to­gether the smaller par­ties. On the other hand, al­liances with­out such a fea­ture fell prey to egos and in­ter­ests.

hand­i­cap of this model was that Ya­davs ac­counted for only 7-8 per­cent of the up elec­torate. The net re­sult was only 5/80 in 2014 and 47/403 in 2017.

Be­sides, up has seen emer­gence of sev­eral caste-based po­lit­i­cal out­fits claim­ing to be rep­re­sent­ing spe­cific so­cial sec­tions in a lim­ited ge­o­graph­i­cal con­fine. Par­ties like Rashtriya Lok Dal, apna dal, suheldev Party, nishad Party, Jan­vadi Party, gond­wana Party and Pra­gatisheel Manav sa­maj Party have emerged on the po­lit­i­cal land­scape of the state. But many have their in­ter­nal con­flicts. The Suheldev Party, for ex­am­ple, favours the cre­ation of sa eparate quota of ebcs and Mbcs in obc reser­va­tion while sp op­poses the same. nishad Party wants in­clu­sion of its caste in sc reser­va­tion which BSP is op­posed to. eco­nomic dom­i­na­tion of one so­cial sec­tion in a ter­ri­tory – Jats and Jatavs in west­ern up, Kur­mis and Ya­davs in cen­tral up – also does not gel well with the rest. Hence, un­like math­e­mat­i­cal science, po­lit­i­cal science does not al­ways re­sult two plus two as four.

“Do aur do ka jod hame­sha chaar ka­han hota hai, Soch samajh walon ko thodi nadaani de maula”

it has been proven that in case of bringing in smaller po­lit­i­cal forces to a larger po­lit­i­cal com­bine, smaller par­ties tend to gain more – that too mostly at the cost of larger par­ties. The BSP got the strength and power largely rid­ing on the shoul­ders of the sp and the BJP. suheldev Party could win its first ever as­sem­bly seat and Apna Dal its first ever Lok sabha seat only af­ter align­ing with the BJP. Be­sides, it is also im­per­a­tive to com­pre­hend the con­se­quent im­pact on the cadre and ex­panse of the party. This thus poses a mil­lion dol­lar ques­tion of how much to give in to pur­sue im­me­di­ate gain at the cost of long term goals.

Then there are func­tional chal­lenges as well that start with bringing dif­fer­ent par­ties with dif­fer­ent agen­das un­der one um­brella. Keep­ing the flock to­gether is even more daunt­ing. From shar­ing of seats to shar­ing of power, the chal­lenge in­creases as each of the po­lit­i­cal out­fits claims dis­pro­por­tion­ately high strength. like in up, the BSP may claim to have the base vote of 18-20 per­cent, congress be­ing the only rep­re­sen­ta­tive of so-called up­per castes also has a base vote of 20 per­cent, sp has a base vote of 7 per­cent, Rld may claim to have sup­port of 2-3 per­cent jat votes, nishad Party may stake claim on 2 per­cent fish­er­men vot­ers, Jan­vadi Party may claim to be rep­re­sent­ing 1 per­cent of chauhan vot­ers, suheldev Party may claim to be rep­re­sent­ing 2 per­cent of Ra­jb­har vot­ers etc. Be­sides, al­most 17-18 per­cent of Mus­lim vot­ers are con­sid­ered as a fac­tor con­stantly lack­ing po­lit­i­cal bar­gain­ing in such an event. ac­com­mo­da­tion of two ris­ing Mus­lim par­ties, Peace Party and aimim, also re­mains to be seen. Thus, shar­ing seats may ap­pear to be an easy math­e­mat­i­cal prob­lem of ra­tio and pro­por­tion but in fact it re­quires a cum­ber­some re­gres­sion equa­tion be­cause of vary­ing per­cep­tual strengths and claims.

There have been in­stances of suc­cess­ful al­liances in in­dian po­lit­i­cal his­tory, but they have been largely char­ac­terised by the dom­i­nance of one party or a leader act­ing as glue to hold to­gether the smaller par­ties. The gov­ern­ments of PV narasimha Rao, atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee and Man­mo­han singh or many gov­ern­ments in the states have been suc­cess­ful only on this premise. on the other hand, al­liances with­out such a fea­ture fell prey to egos and in­ter­ests; for ex­am­ple, the gov­ern­ments of Hd deve gowda and ik gu­jral, of SP-BSP and BSP-BJP in up, and BJP-JDS in Kar­nataka. amal­ga­ma­tion of par­ties of sim­i­lar size poses a chal­lenge on sus­tain­abil­ity and thus saleabil­ity. How par­ties shall re­spond to these chal­lenges re­mains to be seen in the times to come. Rai teaches at the Ba­naras Hindu Univer­sity, Varanasi.

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