It is often said in Indian politics that the road to Delhi passes through Lucknow and how true it is – out of the 543 seats, UP alone contributes 80 seats. With the migration that has happened out of UP in last 3 decades, the mood of UP also decides what political outcome in places like Delhi, and Mumbai.
It is no surprise that any development in UP’s political landscape often causes ripples in the national politics. Narendra Modi, the Gujju man, had to move his representation from the western coast to the plains of UP to gain momentum. Gandhi family continues to remain representatives of UP, and SP and BSP have always been there to help the central governments stay afloat.
No wonder the latest statement by Akhilesh Yadav on going alone in the next general election created so much buzz!
The background of Akhilesh Yavav’s new posturing
It is this importance of UP that made the state elections of 2017 in UP almost a referendum on the NDA 2 government. The elections were almost bang in the middle of the NDA 2 term and it was anticipated to reflect the mood of the biggest contributor to Modi’s tally in 2014. Any slippages (like Delhi or Bihar in 2015) in UP elections would have made Modi very weak. In this desperation to fight Modi and stop the onslaught of BJP’s victories across the country, the two ‘Young’ leaders of SP and Cong came forward to repeat the MGB model of Bihar.
Understanding the MGB Model
The MGB model was based on pitching a dominant caste (Read Yadavs) with the significant Muslim population against upper castes and other OBCs. Mayawati’s BSP and Ajit Singh’s RLD were expected to fracture votes to ensure UPA’s victory. However, the internal feud in SP, massive dalit outreach by BJP, rock solid support from Jats, and the popularity of note-bandi (Demonetisation) ensured BJP won and won big!
The BJP of late 90s and early 2000s had managed Uttar Pradesh horribly. Even after winning 50+ seats in 1998, BJP never tried to become the pole of the UP politics. Atal Bihari Vajpayee always wanted his men to control the powers in Lucknow and the period between 1997-2002 saw 3 BJP chief ministers – Kalyan Singh, Ram Prakash Gupta, and Rajnath Singh. Kalyan Singh, the man under whose watch Babri demolition happened was unceremoniously kicked out of the party. His exit made BJP an upper caste only party that ensured a consistent fall in vote share from 2002 to 2014.
Post the UP Vidhan Sabha election results where BJP won a whopping 325 seats out of the 403 odd seats, the choice of the CM was critical. It was one of those moments that was to decide the result of General Elections 2019. Modi-Shah went for the aggressive Mahant from Purvanchal as the CM and if his initial 300 days as CM are any indications, then BJP is heading for a sweep in General Elections 2019.
The only roadblock the BJP faces in UP now is a mega MGB between Mayawati-Akhilesh-Cong. The media has often popped this idea as core voters of this MGB will be over 42% of the electorate, more than what the NDA managed in 2014 and 2017. It is in this light the recent statement by Akhilesh Yadav gains importance.
Akhilesh Yadav can’t afford further infighting
Post losing the CM chair, Akhilesh Yadav is trying to gain his control over the Samajwadi party as Mulayam Singh Yadav and Shivpal Yadav still hold strong control a section of its cadre. In fact, Shivpal’s booth management and grassroot connect is well known. An already divided party and cadre can’t afford to give away 40-50 seats to allies. The last thing Akhilesh Yadav would want is another round of internal fight just before the next general election – If he follows the Vidhan Sabha’s formula he will have to give away 20 seats to Congress and if he follows the rumoured MGB formula of SP and BSP being equal players with congress being the smaller player (30-30-20), he will have a cadre who would feel cheated.
Even a posturing of being equal to Mayawati, the old nemesis of Samajwadi party is enough for a lot of core cadre of SP to leave the Akhilesh camp. Akhilesh Yadav is not only fighting a battle against BJP but also against his extended family. He has to pretend that he is capable of taking the Modi-Shah-Yogi juggernaut on his own without the help of either Congress or Mayawati.
Will this stance of Akhilesh Yadav hold in future?
A week is a long time in Indian politics. General elections are still 450 days away. Akhilesh Yadav, like other political leader is eagerly waiting for outcome of Karnataka, MP, and Rajasthan elections. If BJP continues its winning momentum, expect Akhilesh to snub a liability in form of Congress and take the punch on his chin in 2019.
However, if Congress is able to win 2 states out of the 3 big ones in 2018, Akhilesh Yadav might make a 180 turn towards Congress and even go to the extent of accommodating BSP.
Going by the early sentiments and ground reports, BJP looks in fine touch and looks poised to register impressive performances in all poll-bound states. Hence Akhilesh snubbing once-his-bff Rahul Gandhi looks like a strong possibility now.
However, right now his sole focus is on getting the control of Samajwadi party back from his father and uncle. He has time on his hand to do it before finalizing his stance.
As we race towards the General Elections of 2019, things are likely to get spicy in the state of Uttar Pradesh with Yogi cracking on law and order, Supreme Court finally expected to deliver RJB decision, feud in Yadav parivar which will decide the future of MGB.
Certainly, the last word on this alliance drama in Uttar Pradesh is yet to be written!