In the season of ‘alliance dalliance’ BSP Chief Mayawati has fired the first salvo by deciding to ally with former Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh Ajit Jogi, who, after leaving Congress, has formed his own party. BSP, which polled 4.27 per cent of the valid votes in 2013, would have ensured a Congress victory in the last Assembly polls, had the grand old party allied with the Dalit outfit.
Congress fell short of BJP’s 41.04 per cent vote share by a meagre 0.75 percentage points in 2013 assembly polls. Historically, in the Naxal-affected state, the difference of vote share between the BJP & the Congress has always been low – 1.7 percentage point in 2008 & 2.55 percentage points in 2003. If Congress have had allied with BSP it would have gone past the finishing line in both 2008 & 2003 with a combined vote share as BSP polled 6.11 per cent votes & 4.45 per cent in those two elections.
Though Rahul Gandhi’s party is apparently confident of defeating Raman Singh-led BJP government the bigger goal of putting up a rainbow coalition has suffered a body blow. Not only in Chhattisgarh, BSP also announced that it intends to fight in all the 230 seats in Madhya Pradesh. The Dalit leader’s move might be seen as applying pressure on the Congress to cede to its demand of parting with more seats outside its home turf of Uttar Pradesh. Nevertheless, given BSP’s track record of allying with BJP in the past, the Mayavati-led party must reconsider its decision so as not to jeopardise the dream of a united opposition against the might of the Modi-Shah duo.
Known to be tough bargainer, Kanshi Ram’s protege’s move has literally put question mark on the fate of Mahagatbandhan. Regional satraps like K Chandrasekhar Rao, Chandrababu Naidu or Jaganmohan Reddy or Naveen Patnaik are not enthusiastic about the grand coalition against BJP. Though Mamata Banerjee is stridently opposing Modi government the party is still wishy-washy about joining the rainbow coalition. What makes matters worse for the Congress is that its organisation is in deep shambles in many states & in others where it still holds forth, infighting has been its biggest nemesis. Right now the Congress is allied with NCP in Maharashtra, JD(S) in Karnataka, DMK in Tamil Nadu & Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD in Bihar, besides, with smaller parties like National conference in Kashmir & JMM in Jharkhand. In Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Himachal & Uttarakhand it is locked in a direct fight with the BJP. It’s a fringe player in West Bengal, Odisha & Uttar Pradesh.
In Uttar Pradesh though it looks likely that the SP-BSP alliance cobbled up during the by polls is likely to carry through to 2019 Lok Sabha election Congress’ role in the alliance is yet to be defined. Samajwadi Party supremo Akhilesh Yadav didn’t mince any words when he said, “Congress should be more accommodating and show large-heartedness for the alliance as it is a national party”. The message is loud & clear – Congress has to swallow its pride of being a national party & cede a seemingly disproportionate share of seats to its likely regional allies if it wants a grand coalition. However, political advisors at ’10, Akbar Road ‘are hoping that the party will be standing on a more strong footing once it manages to trounce BJP in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh & Chhattisgarh.
In case of any electoral set back, party apparatchiks will find it hard to forge a pre-poll alliance & might have to kowtow before the demands of the possible allies.
With only a few months left for the general election there’s a clear cut requirement to bring in regional parties under one umbrella as fighting polls together is always gainful when the ruling dispensation is not suffering any serious anti-incumbency factor. In 1989, a united opposition had trounced Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress riding on the back of a Bofors scam despite the Congress winning a whopping 404 seats only 5 years back. Right now, dark clouds are looming on the horizon over awarding of offset clause in the Rafale deal, the economy is not in good shape & job creation is not to the level as it was expected to be. But, the index of opposition unity is nowhere to be seen. The opposition clearly needs its own VP Singh, who in 1989, had brought together both the Left & the BJP under one umbrella to take on the might of the Congress and it had worked.