Newsmaker: Alliance for survival

The seamless stitches of the alliance between Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) may not give away what is holding them together but the way the two parties formed a united front to fight the CBI scare against the SP in an alleged mining scam clearly shows the common enemy is the glue that binds them in an electoral partnership.

The BJP realises that the Mayawati-Akhilesh combo is potentially far more lethal than the disastrous Akhikesh-Rahul Gandhi doubling in the last assembly elections.

The buzz in Lucknow is that the 'aunt-nephew alliance' was hurriedly announced ahead of schedule because they got the whiff of the CBI moving in against Akhilesh.

In a rare photo opportunity, SP and BSP members of Parliament jointly protested against the CBI's alleged high-handedness in dealing with the BJP's rivals.

Spoiler

The alliance has not only the capacity to ruin Prime Minister Narendra Modi's chances of getting a second term but also spoil Rahul Gandhi's comeback party.

Unlike the bypolls in Uttar Pradesh when SP and BSP had formed a larger alliance with the Congress and Ajit Singh, the opposition bonhomie has shrunk ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

The Congress has been kept away and the only magnanimity shown by the Uttar Pradesh was to leave the Gandhi family pocket boroughs of Amethi and Rae Bareli alone by not fielding any of their candidates from there. A similar concession will be given to Ajit Singh in western Uttar Pradesh.

It is not only the BJP which is worried by the alliance but also the Congress as is evident.

Mayawati's mercurial ways have earned her the tag of being one of the most unpredictable political leaders. Her coming together with Akhilesh Yadav in itself is nothing short of a political enigma considering the past animosity between the two parties that went even beyond politics.

They realise that the BJP, which had swept the Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh and later the assembly polls, cannot be stopped by a single-party challenge. The success of alliance mathematics in the bypolls in the state has further bolstered the need to repeat the formulae in 2019  even if it meant overcoming personal egos and ambitions for the time being.

Downslide

It is not only the BJP which is still looking for the magic wand to break this move, but the Congress too is searching for a way out to remain relevant in a large state like Uttar Pradesh. Rahul Gandhi ideally would have preferred to go with SP and BSP but the regional bigwigs are not ready to give space matching Congress' stature at the national level.  Apart from the high of 2009 when the Congress won 21 Lok Sabha seats in the starlte, it has been a constant downslide.

The Congress president thinks that the party can deliver another surprise by repeating its performance of 2009 -- even if it is wishful thinking at this point of time.

By targeting the BJP and keeping the Congress at arms length, the SP-BSP combine finds itself closer to the non-BJP-non-Congress front. The foundation for the third pole may look shaky at the moment but given the prevailing political winds, it can take firmer shape in the days to come.

The BJD in Odisha is more comfortable with the third option and so is the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal. The Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and Jaganmohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh may also join the bandwagon.

In the end, all the combinations will come into play on the basis of the seats won by the parties. If the BJP is reduced below 200 and the Congress fails to go much beyond 100, then the regional players will have a decisive say in the formation of the next government.

The reverse is true for the BJP and the Congress. The alliance matrix is still work in progress as the political wheel is still in spin. One clear aspect that is emerging is the fact that the BJP is losing partners faster than the Congress is finding them.

As is being predicted, the 2019 Lok Sabha elections are heading for a wave less poll making all the political combinations valid. It may not also be a Modi-versus-all battle.. While the pages are being flipped hurriedly, there is a lot of time for the final chapter to get completed.

Columnist: 
Gautam Datt