Cong can see silver lining in SP-BSP tieup
Clearly determined to contest the election in Uttar Pradesh on its own terms, the Congress party on Sunday said it will contest all the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
Party General Secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad went to the extent of saying that it was a blessing in disguise that the Congress was not a part of the SP-BSP alliance, as it can now contest all the seats in the State.
"Our party is rather happy... Had there been an alliance we would have to be content with 25-30 seats. But now we will be contesting all the seats," Azad told the media.
But its doors were ajar for like-minded parties inclined to be part of a broader antiBJP formulation. In other words, the Congress is ready to join hands with others but
it will be the fulcrum of any ‘gathbandhan’ and will not play the second fiddle. Also, does not want to foreclose its option of a postelection coalition.
Meanwhile, the SP-BSP alliance in UP looks promising, only on the face of it. For Akhilesh Yadav, this is his second foray in alliance politics, the first being with the Congress prior to the 2017 Assembly election. The result was disastrous then. It would appear that he is not too confident of his party's solo performance any more, partly because Mulayam is not politically active, and partly because uncle Shivpal Yadav is not with him anymore.
Rather, the alliance, despite being numerically-equal, appears a winwin situation for Mayawati since her party has no seat in Lok Sabha, at present. Starting at the scratch, anything the party wins on its own or because of the alliance, will be a gain.
By keeping Ajit Singh's Rashtriya Lok Dal out of the picture, the SP and BSP have made it clear that they want to dominate the proceedings between the two of them.
If one goes by math alone, the vote share of the two parties is a little more than that of the BJP, and this is the strongest argument in favour of the alliance. Otherwise, the workers of the two parties have little in common, and in most districts the two parties have thrived by opposing each other rather than opposing the BJP or the Congress.
But since the 2014 and 2017 results have showed the two parties their limitations, the need for an alliance was felt strongly.
The two parties worked on it and did not put up separate candidates in the by-elections for Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats last year. The BJP was defeated in both places.
Now, the 2019 election remains one big chance for Akhilesh to prove his political mettle to his supporters and his father that he has the capacity to rejuvenate his party.
A comparison with the earlier alliance announcements merits mention here. On January 29, 2017, Akhilesh had appeared amid unusual bonhomie at a press meet addressed jointly by him and Rahul Gandhi at the same venue. They had themselves called it a coming-together of yuva shakti (youth power), as an electoral alliance cemented on the mutually-shared intention of keeping the BJP out of power. They had described the alliance as being “two wheels of the vehicle of progress” for Uttar Pradesh, and promised that it will continue for the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
At that time Rahul had offered to answer most of the questions with Akhilesh intervening only to highlight the work done by his Government in the state. When it came to Mayawati, Rahul had said he had great respect for her, but asked whether the BSP too could have become a part of the alliance, Akhilesh had said there was no place for such a “big person” as Mayawati and the ''elephant'' (BSP''s election symbol) in the alliance. Also, the scenes of jubilation outside the venue and elsewhere in Lucknow were as festive then as they were now.
The slogan that had emerged from the short-lived alliance was UP ko ye saath pasand hai (UP likes this alliance). It remains to be seen how the people respond to the alliance with BSP, now.