While a grand alliance of the opposition parties might change the game, both the SP and BSP have indicated otherwise.
A build-up to an intense and most closely-watched electoral battle has begun with the assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh just a few months away. While the Opposition parties, particularly the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, claim to turn the tables in the upcoming polls, political experts are of the view that doing so will be an uphill task, given the BJP’s dominant show in the recent panchayat polls and its thumping victory in the 2017 state elections when the other parties and alliances were decimated.
While a grand alliance of the opposition parties might change the game, both the SP and BSP have indicated otherwise. This dates back to the 2017 assembly elections and 2019 civic body polls where the Samajwadi Party had a bitter experience joining hands with the Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party, respectively.
For BSP, it’s a do-or-die situation not only for party chief Mayawati but also for the very idea of a mainstream Dalit party.
Speaking to FinancialExpress.com, political strategist and commentator Amitabh Tiwari said that the BSP is not even being considered as a challenger to the BJP in the forthcoming elections, adding that the Jatav voter base of Mayawati’s party was also under threat this time.
“Voters do not like to back a losing horse. Mayawati has been losing for the past two elections and is not considered as the main challenger to Yogi Adityanath. The party has already lost the majority of its non-Jatav support to the BJP in UP. Nationally many Jatav voters have moved to the BJP, with the party winning majority of SC reserved seats in 2019. To have a greater representation and have a share in the power pie, some Jatavs could back the BJP in 2022 in UP,” he said.
The Samajwadi Party, on the other hand, has been doing some strong work at the grass-root level, holding caste-focused public meetings and cycle rallies in rural areas, where it is highlighting the alleged failures of the Yogi Adityanath government and making tall promises for the upliftment and welfare of the backward communities.
In fact, the Samajwadi Party emerged as the single largest party in the panchayat polls, bagging 782 of the 3,050 zilla panchayat seats.
After the 2017 poll debacle, Samajwadi Party is now following the BJP strategy of taking smaller parties on board to regain power in the politically crucial state.
Party chief Akhilesh Yadav has been giving indications about going for alliance only with the smaller parties to defeat the mighty BJP.
On possible alliances, Yadav had recently said that the doors of his party were open for all small parties. Many smaller parties were already with him. More would come in the fold. He is also said to have kept his doors open for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). His recent meeting with AAP MP Sanjay Singh further fuelled this speculation.
No doubt in the tough battle ahead, Akhilesh realises the significance of these smaller caste-based political outfits, which can be the deciding factor between a victory and defeat on many seats. Alliances with caste-based diminutive parties can also give him the necessary expansion beyond his Muslim-Yadav vote base.
“Almost half of the vote share of BSP comprises of support from Jatavs and other half from Brahmins, Non Yadav OBCs and others. A section of this other half can move to the SP if the contest heats up and Akhilesh is able to make it a bipolar contest,” opined Tiwari.
“However, a bipolar contest will not happen automatically and SP will need to work hard on the ground, calling out anti-BJP voters that backing BSP is a waste of vote, voting BSP is akin to voting for the BJP. A triangular contest benefits the incumbent like in West Bengal and Bihar. Unless SP makes it a bipolar contest and consolidates all anti-BJP forces under one umbrella, shunning it’s exclusive (MY) politics and embracing an all-inclusive strategy, it will be difficult to beat the BJP,” he added.
However, a major hurdle in front of the SP and BSP is the complicated caste arithmetic in the state, which has seemingly worked in favour of the BJP since 2017. Other than Brahmins, the saffron party also seems to be favoured by the non-Yadav OBCs which account for 35 per cent of the state population. If political experts are to be believed, non-Yadav OBC votes were a major reason behind the BJP’s thumping victory in 2017.
The OBC Bill passed by the Parliament last month, which restores the power of states to make their own lists of other backward classes, is also a factor which might work in BJP’s favour.