Mayawati keeps Opposition guessing ahead of key meet
uphill task in Uttar Pradesh minus the BSP. The BJP had bagged 71 out of 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state, while its alliance partner Apna Dal had won two seats in the last elections. BSP general secretary Satish Chandra Misra could not be contacted for his comments.
The meeting has been called at the behest of Telugu Desam Party chief and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, who is spearheading the unity move. He was part of the National Democratic Alliance but left it earlier this year.
Sources said BSP’s lack of commitment to an Opposition unity may spoil the en- tire effort as UP is very crucial, where only a Samajwadi Party-BSP combine has the potential to take on the BJP. “This is the only state where the Opposition unity can truly make an impact. The results of the byelections in Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairana are a case in point where BJP candidates were defeated to a joint Opposition,” they explained.
However, that was earlier this year. Mayawati has not been very forthcoming during the just-concluded Assembly elections. “She backed out from aligning with the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, which came as a jolt to Rahul Gandhi’s party. In Chhattisgarh, her party, in fact, joined hands with the breakaway Con- gress faction led by Ajit Jogi. Mayawati’s refusal to come on board with Congress has raised doubts about her commitment to the idea of Opposition unity. In Telangana too, BSP contested 70 seats on its own,” said a source.
Sources said that Mayawati had expressed her displeasure to Naidu over the Congress’ attitude. “She is also concerned about Congress’ bonhomie with Bhim Army leader Chandrashekhar Azad. She is worried about the possibility of Congress poaching on her Dalit vote bank,” they added. Mayawati and Sonia Gandhi had shared the dais during the oath-taking ceremony of H.D. Kumaraswamy as Chief Minister of Karnataka in May.
According to a senior BJP leader, any Opposition unity will not pose a threat to the party-led NDA. “The Opposition bloc does not have any face, whereas we have a strong leader like Narendra Modi. Moreover, these parties fought against us in 2014 too, but we won. They are now planning to fight against us again. So there is no change in the situation,” he asserted.
“They are leaders in their respective regions. If Mamata Banerjee and Chandrababu Naidu come together on one platform, what difference does it make in Bengal or Andhra Pradesh?” he asked. He, however, admitted that if SP and BSP joined hands in UP, it would be a different situation.
The sources, however, said that BSP’s refusal to be a part of the Opposition bloc could not only affect the outcome in UP, but also in states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Bihar where she has considerable support among Dalits. “She may not win seats in these states but will eat into the non-BJP votes,” sources said.
The meeting will be held in the national capital a day before the announcement of the results of the Assembly elections in five states and the commencement of the winter session of Parliament. It is likely to be attended by, besides Naidu, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav, Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar, former Union Minister Sharad Yadav and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah.
Monday’s meeting will discuss strategies on how to proceed towards building a “mahagathbandhan” or grand alliance against the BJP. The sources said former Congress president Sonia Gandhi may attend the meeting, which will also discuss matters related to the winter session.
Other leaders who are likely to attend the meeting include Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, DMK’s M.K. Stalin, RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav and CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury. The meeting was first scheduled for 22 November, but had to be postponed because of the Assembly elections.