As assembly elections in a few states are on the cards, the magnanimity of UP is undeniable. Along with the impact it has on Indian polity, the demographic aspects coupled with casteism, complex nature of the fighting parties and even religious polarisation together makes it a political pundits delight to predict election results. As the dates inch closer, exit polls and surveys have given BJP a decisive advantage in the numbers that may see the party surging to power on its own after a decade.
This certainly leaves the other three players to ensure thwarting the BJP march otherwise it will impose a big setback in its prospects to gherao Modi govt with 2019 in horizon.
When surveys give a fair idea of the seats that are projected to go to a party’s kitty, mathematics into seat sharing gather prominence especially when alliances are forged. Pre poll alliances basically cater on to important two objectives. First one is to facilitate seat sharing and the other one is managing, manipulating or realignment of vote banks.
After a hectic parley of discussions and deliberations, SP and Congress finally sealed their alliance to fight UP elections together.
Whilst SP will fight on 298, Congress managed to grab little above a hundred. In a not so good forecasting of impending poll performance for them, a tie up may have imbibed a little bit of life in their quest to fight the polls with different goal posts. For the civil war infested SP, Akhilesh Yadav has a two prong battle in uniting his party and overcoming seemingly strong anti incumbency. Even if some analysts say the father son slugfest may be a gimmick of sorts, the tug of war between the scion and his opportunistic uncles like Shivpal do clearly exhibit party infighting. This alliance may not help him defeat the incumbency factor but it can certainly help SP galvanise minority votes that may propel Akhilesh to somehow retain Lucknow. Going alone for the polls was a risk and even if SP had to compromise on seat sharing to the Congress, a last ditch effort was not that bad strategy to salvage hopes of turning those numbers. A press conference uniting the parties and proclamation of their usual diatribe of stopping communal forces was better than the embarrassment of Mulayam Singh skipping his Sons manifesto launch at the SP headquarters.
Congress on the other hand has got a new lease of life in its battle for nothing but survival in a state which used to be one of its fledging citadels. As survey numbers predict a single digit humiliation, alliance with SP at least can save them from becoming extinct with pocket boroughs of Amethi or Rae Baerelli only in the offing. After the tie up was secured, the party didn’t credit Rahul Gandhi which initiated speculations of more role for Priyanka Gandhi in party activities. It is well observed that she was quite involved in hectic dialogue and discussions with SP for seat sharing arrangements rather than campaigning. Congress in its post 2014 continuing disaster had even lost some insiders like Ritu Bahuguna Joshi to BJP which further had plummeted their chances of staying alive in the fray for the largest state in India. The party was reluctant to settle anything for less than a hundred and so keeping best interests in mind, both SP and Congress made the announcement after days of speculations.
BSP and BJP reacted cautiously to the development. For the BSP which is fielding about a hundred Muslim candidates for the UP elections is still hell bent upon relying on its social engineering association of Dalit and minority. Even if minority votes get dented in the wake of them swaying to SP Congress alliance, it may also flow over to Mayawati in order to keep BJP out as there is still discontent against Akhilesh owing to riots and its aftermath. The BJP expected to do well is hoping a two way division of minority vote bank which will steer its chances to romp home as it continues to get electoral benefits over demonetisation policy and here a reverse polarisation may further bolster its forming a govt here in Lucknow alone again after Kalyan Singh.
The four way contest between the players has irreversible stakes in this watershed elections. SP is fighting to come back as a loss will further heighten the infighting with uncles vying for Akhilesh’s scalp and reinvention of the party. A win for SP will make Mulayam jump into national politics with the state safe with his son. For the BJP a loss will weaken its victorious juggernaut and strengthen the opposition but a win at the heart of the Hindi heartland will up its image as practically the only national party at present. BSP downed by the spiralling effects of demonetisation may go into oblivion in case of a loss and a win will see a new thorn emerging for the BJP in the realms of national polity.
However, the Congress has everything to gain as it fights extinction in the state and anything more than a single digit will be helpful. SP Congress alliance is not about restoring secular credentials as they say it, it is more sort of two drowning individuals securing a plank to perhaps stay float and delay the doom as a Lotus is on the verge here in Lucknow to bloom.