The battle cry for the 2019 elections has already been shouted out, with the gathering of all the anti-BJP parties at one stage on the occasion of HD Kumaraswamy’s oath taking ceremony. The steepest challenge that the BJP will face will be in Uttar Pradesh. The road to Lok Sabha goes from Uttar Pradesh, due to the sheer number of seats that the state offers to the Lok Sabha (80). In an unprecedented political alliance, SP and BSP came together against BJP in UP By-polls. Coming together of these two big political rivals could be catastrophic for the BJP in UP in the 2019 General Elections. The BJP lost its Gorakhpur and Phulpur strongholds to the SP-BSP alliance. In Kairana by-polls, the SP and BSP have again joined hands to defeat the BJP. The ‘United Opposition’ in Kairana has decided to field Tabassum Begum in Kairana. The Samajwaadi Party candidate is going to have the backing of Bahujan Samaj Party Chief Mayawati as well. Their alliance also goes on to show that there are no permanent foes and friends in politics. An important thing to note here is that they have not included Congress in their alliance. After the SP-Congress alliance in 2017 which resulted in disaster, both the parties are trying their level best to keep themselves away from the Congress as much as possible.
Amit Shah has also admitted that SP-BSP alliance would be a challenging one for him. He said, “If the BSP and SP contest in alliance, it would be a challenge to us.” But the question is how effective the SP-BSP alliance would be in Uttar Pradesh. To understand that, we need to look at the caste equation of Uttar Pradesh, since minorities form the backbone of both the parties’ voter base. UP became one of the crusaders of caste politics in the 90s. Dalits owed their loyalty to BSP, Yadavs and Muslims to SP and Swarna Caste Voters to BJP. The caste breakup of 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections was:
OBC – 29%
Muslim – 20%
Dalits – 14%
Yadav – 10%
Brahmins – 10%
Rajput – 8%
Other SC – 7%
Jat – 2%
Currently, among these caste groups, Yadavs, Muslims and Dalits owe their allegiance to the two strong local leaders in Akhilesh Yadav and BSP supremo Mayawati. There is a solid organizational presence of these two parties in the state. Other regional leaders like Ajit Singh of Rashtriya Lok Dal might extend support to this coalition as Ajit Singh also shared dias with with Akhilesh and Mayawati at HD Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in-ceremony. Jats are Ajit Singh’s core vote bank. If all goes well this will provide them more edge over the BJP.
However, in politics 2+2 is not always equal to 4, the best example of which is the 2017 UP assembly elections. The BJP’s core vote bank are voters of Sawarna Caste (Brahmin, Baniya and Kshatriya) and Non-Jatav dalits who voted for the BJP en masse in 2017 UP assembly elections. Non-Yadav OBCs also voted for the BJP in large numbers in the 2017 elections. In 2014, in front of Amit Shah’s astute political manoeuvres, all the established Caste equations failed. The BJP, with the help of small regional parties like Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party and Apna Dal united non-Yadav OBCs, non-Jatav Dalits and Upper caste Hindus under one umbrella. The BJP also gained success in getting votes of Muslim Women in 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. Following this strategy BJP got unexpected overwhelming majority in 2017 UP elections.
The traditional rivalry between Yadavs and Dalits will play a huge role too as the latter considers the former as their oppressors. Along with caste there is also a new class of voters emerging throughout the entire country. That class is of women, educated people and first time voters. Voters from this class would be a deciding factor in 2019 General elections and especially in Uttar Pradesh. Because of this newly emerged class all the election analysis of the past are becoming redundant. New elections cannot be analyzed with old spectacles. In Uttar Pradesh, women security and employment for educated youths are important issues. Yogi government has addressed these issues since its advent. The Yogi government has laid an extra emphasis on the condition of law and order in Uttar Pradesh. Criminals are running from pillar to post to save their lives. Over 1400 encounters have been carried out by UP police since the advent of Yogi Government. Development works are in their full swing in both rural and urban areas. In urban areas like Noida and Lucknow, people mainly vote for the BJP.
Uttar Pradesh is very important for both SP-BSP and the BJP. Both will combine heaven and hell to win the swathe of seats Uttar Pradesh has to offer. For Akhilesh and Mayawati, it’s a battle of survival because it has been seen that once regional parties become irrelevant, they never truly recover and vanish forever. The Congress party has its cadre and strength in other states, so for them it is very easy to recover. But for regional parties this becomes an uphill task. SP-BSP have formed an opportunistic alliance for their survival and to remain relevant in both state and national politics, rather than to win the elections. They have come together once before also to install Mulayam Singh Yadav as the Chief Minister of UP in 1993. These opportunistic alliances do not survive for long. The BJP party emerged as the single largest in the 1993 UP elections. To stop the BJP from coming to power a mega post-poll alliance against the BJP was formed which included parties like SP, BSP, Congress, Janata Dal and left parties which survived for only 1 year and 181 days. Sounds eerily similar to what had happened recently in Karnataka elections.
The trio of PM Modi, Amit Shah and CM Yogi can break any caste equations. Today’s BJP is more stronger than the BJP of the 90s. The gap between the number of seats which BJP won in 2017 UP elections and 2014 general elections is too wide to be filled by any other coalition. Uttar Pradesh is the key to the 2019 General elections, and the battle this time is going to be a fierce and rather interesting one.