File photo of Mayawati. Photograph:( Zee News Network )
The Congress interprets Mayawati’s decision as a snub because she pulled the rung from under its feet even as negotiations were on between the two.
Ordinarily speaking, Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati’s decision to not ally with the Congress for the upcoming Assembly elections in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, should not have caused a ripple, much less led to a raucous debate it did in the media.
The BSP is not considered a major force in either of the two States. In the 2013 poll, the party secured just a little over six per cent of the votes in Madhya Pradesh, while in Rajasthan it had fared even more miserably — getting less than three-and-a-half per cent. In both these instances, the BSP had done worse than it did in 2008. This, despite the fact that the Scheduled Caste population in both the States is good enough to have made Mayawati a force to reckon with; over 15 per cent Madhya Pradesh and 18 per cent in Rajasthan.
Mayawati’s flexing of muscles has alarmed the Congress for reasons that go beyond these two States. The first is that she has made a mockery of efforts to cobble together a larger anti-BJP alliance in time for the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
Though she has not categorically ruled out a coalition with a Congress-led opposition for the general election, the tirade she launched against the country’s oldest national party could be relevant for 2019 as well. She called the Congress casteist and corrupt. Senior members of her party, taking a cue, added their bit, accusing the Congress of being arrogant and detached from ground realities.
Part of this outburst can be attributed to the Congress’s disinclination to entertain the high number of seats the BSP had been demanding in both the States — a number that, according to Congress leaders, was simply out of proportion to the BSP’s winnability factor. But the part reason is also about the discomfort in the BSP over ceding prime space to Congress president Rahul Gandhi in national calculations.
It’s an uneasiness which the BSP alone does not have. Prominent regional satraps, including Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav, share her opinion. Samajwadi party spokespersons virtually backed Mayawati’s decision to go it alone in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, and instead advised the Congress to show flexibility The Samajwadi Party and the BSP have already formed an alliance in Uttar Pradesh, and neither is in dire need of the Congress in the State. This bodes ill for the Congress in Uttar Pradesh, a State which sends 80 members to the Lok Sabha. The Congress is especially vulnerable here and simply cannot do much without riding piggyback on either the BSP or the Samajwadi Party or both.
The Congress interprets Mayawati’s decision as a snub because she pulled the rung from under its feet even as negotiations were on between the two. Besides, it felt upset that in the midst of talks earlier on, the BSP chief had unilaterally announced her candidates for two dozen seats in Madhya Pradesh. But announcing a clutch of her candidates for Madhya Pradesh was not the only indication Mayawati gave; she tied up with Ajit Jogi’s Chhattisgarh Janata Congress, the Congress’s bitter rival in Chhattisgarh, the other State which votes for a new Assembly. It didn’t help that Jogi had been a prominent Congress leader in the State once upon a time and was now determined to finish off his former party.
Mayawati does command more attention and consideration than what electoral statistics would suggest. Her party could not win a single Lok Sabha seat in the 2014 election. It came a distant third in the 2017 Assembly election in Uttar Pradesh, failing to outperform even the Samajwadi Party which had been deeply fractured as a result of a family feud. In the given situation, many expected her to gratefully accept whatever she got out of alliances. But she has surprised them all. Her confidence stems from the fact that she remains a mass leader and can tilt the scales in contests that matter — definitely so in Uttar Pradesh and also in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, though only in a few pockets. But, most importantly, the larger opposition unity project will be in doldrums minus her participation.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)