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HT EDIT-The Opposition needs Mayawati Only the BSP can really impact elections beyond Uttar Pradesh

September 18, 2018 05:25 AM


The Opposition needs Mayawati
Only the BSP can really impact elections beyond Uttar Pradesh
Bypolls are of little consequence in Indian politics. However, bypolls for the Lok Sabha seats of Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairana in Uttar Pradesh (UP) made national headlines. The reason was the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) defeat by a united opposition, comprising primarily of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan

Samaj Party (BSP). Simple electoral arithmetic suggests that a grand alliance led by the SP-BSP could cause major upsets for the BJP in the state. In the 2014 Lok Sabha and the 2017 assembly elections, the BJP won 89% and 77% of total seats with a vote share of 43% and 40%. The combined vote share of the SP and the BSP comes to 43% and 44% in these elections. Adding the Congress’s vote share takes these numbers above 50%. A major upset in UP can spoil the BJP’s ambitions of repeating its 2014 performance.

But politics is not just arithmetic. India’s anti-BJP political spectrum is diverse. This reality has the potential of creating difficulties for forging and sustaining any anti-BJP coalition. On Sunday, Mayawati said the BSP will fight elections alone in case the party is not allocated a “respectable” number of seats. Cleverly, she has left the definition of respectable ambiguous. The BSP is perhaps the only party apart from the Congress which can impact election results in more than a couple of states. It played smartly by allying with the Janata Dal (Secular) in the Karnataka assembly elections. Combined vote share of the Congress and the BSP exceeded that of the BJP on six out of nine occasions in assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan since 2003. Reports suggest that alliance negotiations between the two parties have been going on in these states. While the BSP is the junior partner vis-à-vis the Congress in these three states, the tables will turn in Uttar Pradesh.

This opens up another contradiction in the efforts to build a unity against the BJP. Leaders such as Sharad Pawar have said that the Opposition should focus on state-specific alliances, giving leadership to local players, rather than make attempts to put together a national-level alliance. Mayawati’s threat suggests that she might not be willing to accept this method.

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