Thursday, June 20, 2024

Akhilesh wary of sharing seats with Cong; Maya views it as a threat

Opposition unity in Uttar Pradesh is likely to remain a pipe dream ahead of the general elections 2024 since the two main opposition parties in the state — the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party — agree to disagree on almost all issues.

Even as the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party reiterate their commitment to defeating the BJP, they are averse to the idea of sitting together — or with the Congress — for forging an alliance against the ruling BJP.

Though Akhilesh Yadav seems to have softened his stand towards the Congress and attended the Patna conclave, he is unwilling to share seats with the Congress in UP.

Both the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) were born from the vote base of the Congress – the BSP with Dalits and the SP with Muslims.

Muslims, Dalits, along with the Brahmins, were once the mainstay of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh.

“Aligning with the Congress at this point when the party is looking towards a revival after the Bharat Jodo Yatra (BJY) would amount to political hara-kiri. We cannot give our own vote bank (Muslim in this case) a political option. What is the guarantee that Muslims will not return to the Congress if we forge an alliance with them?” asked a senior SP leader.

The SP leadership wants to continue projecting itself as the only alternative to the BJP in UP.

Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav has consciously avoided being seen in the same frame with Rahul Gandhi. Even though several top Congress leaders visited his Saifai home to offer condolences when his father Mulayam Singh passed away in October last year, Akhilesh did not soften his stand and refused to join the BJY.

Similarly, BSP leader Mayawati, who suffered a major erosion of her vote bank in the last assembly elections — with a large part of her Dalit vote bank shifting to the BJP — is now wary of the Congress which is blatantly targeting the Dalits.

The Congress leadership in Uttar Pradesh now comprises of leaders culled from the BSP — from Brijlal Khabri to Nakul Dubey to Naseemuddin Siddiqui — all of whom are claiming to use their previous connect with the BSP to bring the Dalits closer to the Congress.

The Congress, for obvious reasons, is now considered a nonentity in UP and parties are naturally wary of joining hands with it and losing their own ground.

The Congress, too, does not seem very interested in making friends with the SP, especially after the 2019 debacle when the two parties allied with the ‘Do ladke’ slogan.

Interestingly, the Samajwadi Party has also started gnawing at the BSP’s Dalit vote base and the recent controversy over the use of the word ‘Shudra’ in Ramcharitmanas is an example.

By supporting Swami Prasad Maurya who created the row, Akhilesh wants to pull back state politics into casteism and dilute the BJP’s ‘Hindu First’ card.

Moreover, there is a strong belief in the state’s political circles that whenever a larger party allies with a smaller one, it is the latter which fattens up and leaves the former leaner and weaker.

“This is a time-tested belief and similar to the ‘leech technique’. The BJP allied for the first time with BSP in 1995, supporting the first Mayawati government. The party rapidly lost ground and remained out of power for 14 years till it made a comeback in 2017. Similarly, when BSP allied with the Congress in 1996, it was the BSP which gained while the downfall of the Congress began. In 2019, SP allied with BSP and it was the BSP that gained while SP lost ground,” said a SP leader.

Another factor that is obstructing alliances in UP is the aspiration of both, Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati, to attain the status of a national leader.

Both the leaders have been unsuccessfully trying to find a toehold in other states but have not got much success so far.

As the countdown begins to the 2024 general elections, it is clear that the Samajwadi Party will contest the polls in alliance with the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) which is gaining strength in western UP. Another addition to the alliance may be the Azad Samaj Party, popularly known as the Bhim Army.

Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar is known for his proximity to RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary and the latter could help in cementing the alliance between the SP and the Bhim Army who is looking to making inroads into BSP’s Dalit votes.

Meanwhile, there could be trouble in the SP-RLD alliance as elections come closer because Jayant Chaudhary seems to favourably look towards an alliance with the Congress while the Samajwadi Party is opposed to it.

The BSP, as in the past, will go it alone in the Lok Sabha polls.

Interestingly, both the SP and the BSP are supremely confident of faring better in the 2024 polls and feel that the BJP will lose ground due to the anti-incumbency factor.

The BJP is not perturbed and is working, in fact, to improving its numbers in Uttar Pradesh.

As a senior party functionary says, “A divided opposition suits us perfectly — just like the fable about a woodcutter’s sons being unable to break a bundle of sticks tied together. These parties have no common programme or ideology and are driven by giant-sized egos. UP will, once again, catapult the BJP back to power in 2024.”

Senior political analyst R K Singh said, “The opposition has given the BJP a reason to smile in 2023. All the talk of opposition unity has already crumbled and a fragmented opposition will ensure the BJP’s return to power. These leaders put their egos before their political goals. As the main opposition force in UP, it is the responsibility of Akhilesh Yadav to bring everyone together but he apparently believes that he alone can defeat the BJP. He has not learnt his lesson from the 2022 assembly polls.”

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