The 2019 general elections saw the opposition camp being pushed into uncomfortable twists and turns in face of another pro-Modi wave which brought the NDA to a stellar total of 353 members in the Lok Sabha. While BJP ramped up its tally, parties of the opposition camp were seen struggling to save political ground. In Uttar Pradesh, which sends the largest number of representatives to the Lok Sabha the political scenario also witnessed massive shifts, with arch-rivals Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) coming together to take on the Modi juggernaut.
While the alliance numbers added up to give a significant fight to the BJP wave after its massive victory in 2014 general elections and 2017 assembly elections, however, the 2019 elections results indicated otherwise. While SP lost on 32 out of the 37 seats it contested on, BSP failed on 28 out of the 38 seats, getting the total of the Mahagathbandhan to just 15, contrary to much estimation which pegged the tally of the alliance in the ballpark of 50 seats. While for SP the tally remained the same as of 2014 general elections the BSP jumped itself from an embarrassing zero to 10 seats in the lower house. Within days of the election results, Mayawati had already been signaling her exit from the alliance.
The results clearly indicated that despite seemingly combined efforts of both the parties, only one of them benefitted. The main objective of Mahagathbandhan was to put BJP at a disadvantage but evidently, Samajwadi Party emerged to be the most adversely affected by this alliance. These developments in Uttar Pradesh politics also provide us with a small glimpse into the genius of Mayawati who propelled her party for zero to ten while destroying both credibility and the vote bank of its ‘alliance partner’ the SP. Mayawati’s decision to ally with SP in Lok Sabha turned out to be a calculated move. The move not only benefitted Mayawati electorally effectively reviving her party but in doing so the move did irreparable damage to its archrival, the Samajwadi Party.
Traditionally SP and BSP voters have been at the opposite ends of the spectrum, with both parties demonizing the opposition vote bank to garner electoral steam. The Yadavs which traditionally voted in a block for the Samajwadi Party also seemed disgruntled by this alliance, several smaller political factions from within the Samajwadi Party also emerged and ultimately this alliance ended up costing Akhilesh one of its most loyal voter bases. For Mayawati, however, the alliance just did the trick and further propelled her on the electoral ladder.
Nonetheless, there is more to the story, now Mayawati has shifted her focus to another vote bank of the SP, the Muslims. According to media reports, in a closed-door meeting, Mayawati revealed that Akhilesh Yadav had asked Mayawati not to field any Muslim candidates as it would result in Muslim polarization. She said “But I did not listen to him. When Akhilesh Yadav was the Chief Minister, injustice was done to non-Yadav and Dalits and that is why they did not give votes to the SP. The SP had protested against the promotion of the Dalits also.” She also accused the Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav of “working hand in glove with the BJP” to frame her in Taj corridor case.
These developments are sure to bring about a major shift in Uttar Pradesh politics and propel BSP further ahead of the SP which has been sitting as the major opposition force to the BJP in the state for long. From being written off after 2014 and 2017 elections, the alliance with SP has effectively brought Mayawati from the oblivion and put her as the main opposition contender for the CM post as of now. For Akhilesh, the alliance has been a bitter experience and the consequences of it will impact the party for a long time.