January 26, 2019 witnessed one of the most important events in the political history of India—the coming together of Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) to seal an alliance, burying their two-decade-long hostility. The alliance was expected to change the dynamics of the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh which has 80 Lok Sabha seats. The historic tie-up was expected to give a strong fight to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies in the Lok Sabha elections. However, four months down the lane, after facing a near rout in the polls, both the parties have called it quits, at least for the time being.
The BSP supremo—known for her mercurial temperament, was reportedly miffed that the alliance failed to deliver desired results. Putting the blame squarely on SP for its failure to transfer vote to BSP, Mayawati even made a caustic remark on the humiliating defeat of Dimple Yadav, wife of SP chief Akhilesh Yadav. However, political observers believe that though Mayawati has parted ways with the SP for the time being, it cannot be construed as the end of the road for the alliance.
“Mayawati is disappointed because she thought the alliance will sweep the elections. The arrangement did not work for both parties. The BSP chief never said that her party is breaking up permanently with the SP. She said the arrangement is for the upcoming by-elections. It’s natural that she wants to strengthen her organisation by 2022,” says political analyst Neerja Chowdhury.
The defeat of Akhilesh's wife Dimple Yadav, in her constituency Kannauj, came as a huge blow to the party, which boasts of a major support base of Yadavs and Muslim votes in the state. “Mayawati’s response could have been a measured one. It was an unfortunate thing to say that Dimple didn’t win this election. After all, everybody lost this election. They have to go back to people and find out what people want,” says Chowdhury. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an election rally, had predicted that the SP-BSP alliance will break away after the election results on May 23. Political analyst Sanjay Kumar says that the split was bound to happen sooner or later.
“It’s part of the game. They entered into an alliance on a mutual agreement. It’s all about how many seats they won together, nothing more than that,” says Kumar.
In an internal party review meeting on Monday, Mayawati announced her decision to contest solo in the by-polls to 11 Assembly seats— which fell vacant after the Lok Sabha elections. Another notable fact is that Mayawati’s decision to contest by-polls comes after a gap of twenty years—making her intentions clear that she is not leaving any stones unturned to strengthen her cadre base in the state. Mayawati also attributed the poor performance of the alliance to the shifting of the Yadav votes to the BJP camp. Observers are not dismissing that claim either. “It’s possible that young Yadavs didn’t vote for Dimple Yadav or for the alliance. My sense is that young Jatavs and Yadavs haven’t voted for the alliance. Their votes have gone to the BJP. A greater study will reveal what went wrong,” says Chowdhury adding that the young voter in the state is more aspirational and its time parties look beyond caste calculus.
In the electoral fight, the SP-BSP could only manage to get 15 seats while BJP walked away with 64 seats with a little help from its ally Apna Dal. While BSP won 10 seats, Akhilesh’s party won five seats in the state. Observers say that the partnership has benefited BSP more as the Mayawati-led party had failed to open its account in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. “I am surprised that Mayawati has pulled out of the alliance. It should have been Akhilesh raging at Mayawati for the failure of transferring votes to his party from BSP,” says Kumar.
The alliance also has seen some memorable moments of the coming together of SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati during the campaign. The observers also say that though both the partners gave their best shot to the partnership, the credit goes to Akhilesh Yadav for being more accommodative.
“Akhilesh is the large-hearted one in this partnership. He has given Mayawati a long rope knowing that she’s a maverick. Nobody can handle Mayawati, but Akhilesh handled her very well. He very well understands the strength and weakness of the partner,” says Chowdhury.
On the larger question of the split impacting the coalition politics in the country, Kumar says that it wouldn’t deal any blow to alliance politics. “Breaking of SP and BP doesn’t mean that alliance politics is gone. We cannot draw such conclusions from their experience. Alliances break and form,” he says…After all, there are no permanent enemies or friends in politics!