Samajwadi Party veteran Mulayam Singh Yadav perhaps saw it coming. He had fumed when his son and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and BSP supremo Mayawati sealed a seat-sharing arrangement, with the BSP as the senior partner, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh. He lamented that Akhilesh is destroying a party, which he had arduously built.
Now, as the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) decides to go it alone in the by-elections, it must be déjà vu for Mulayam Singh – remembering the incidents of 1995, when Mayawati despite being an alliance partner staked claim to form her own government and submitted a letter of support from the BJP to then UP governor Motilal Vora. The infuriated Samajwadi Party (SP) supporters had vandalised the guest house where Mayawati was meeting her supporters. The BSP finally formed the government with the support of the BJP MLAs and Mayawati became the chief minister for the first time.
That’s how the ‘Mile Mulayam Kanshiram, hawa mein udd gaye Jai Sri Ram’ (when Mulayam and Kanshiram join hands, there’s little Jai Sri Ram can do) experiment failed in UP. A few months later, the BJP withdrew support and the BSP government collapsed. At that time, BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee famously said – “Kaante se kaanta nikala, aur phir donon kaante phenk diye” (we used one of them to demolish the other and then dumped them both).
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Now, Akhilesh must be wondering if Mulayam Singh indeed had better political instincts all along. In hindsight, it’s difficult to understand why at all did Akhilesh agree to such an audacious experiment and a seat-sharing agreement. The Samajwadi Party was in all respect a bigger force in UP. In the 2017 assembly elections, it contested on 298 seats and got 21.8 per cent of the total votes and 47 seats. In comparison, the BSP contested on all 403 seats and managed to get 22.2 per cent of the total votes polled and just 19 seats.
Even during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the SP performed better than the BSP and five of its candidates won. The tally later went up to seven after the SP candidates won the bypolls in Phulpur and Gorakhpur. The BSP tally was zero in 16th Lok Sabha.
Despite mathematics being in the SP’s favour, Akhilesh Yadav settled for 37 Lok Sabha seats, one less than the BSP. These seats included constituencies like Varanasi, Lucknow, Bareilly, Pilibhit, Allahabad, Noida, Kanpur and Ghaziabad. All of them have been BJP strongholds even when the SP and the BSP were in power in the state.
It was a Faustian bargain that Akhilesh Yadav struck with Mayawati – he would support BSP chief for the position of the Prime Minister and in return, Mayawati would back him for the chief minister’s post.
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And, Akhilesh Yadav did everything to ensure the alliance succeeds. His wife and then MP from Kannauj Dimple Yadav touched Mayawati’s feet and took her blessings during a public meeting; the picture has since gone viral. It symbolised a politically forged unity between Dalits and OBCs. The picture of a woman born in a Thakur family and married to a Yadav seeking blessings from a Dalit leader should be preserved for posterity.
But all that is history now. The SP-BSP alliance is over. At least, for now.
The reasons cited by Mayawati to go it alone in the bypolls are superfluous. At her press conference, she said Akhilesh Yadav failed in securing the Yadav votebank and it hurt the BSP’s poll prospects too. She said even strong contenders like Dimple Yadav and Dharmendra Yadav could not win their seats, and advised the SP to strengthen its party organisation. Mayawati reduced the SP to a Yadav party and denied it the image of a coalition of different social forces.
The question is: Why did the BSP perform better than the SP in the Lok Sabha elections and how did it improve its tally from zero to 10 in just five years?
The alliance enabled the BSP to get Muslim votes, who had deserted the party after Mayawati campaigned for the BJP and shared stage with Narendra Modi during 2002 Gujarat election campaign. The BSP also managed to get Yadav votes, which explains its wins in Yadav-dominated eastern UP seats.
We cannot conclude that Dimple Yadav and Dharmendra Yadav lost the elections from Kannauj and Badaun because Yadavs did not vote for them. Maybe the BJP formed a bigger social coalition, or maybe there was a Modi wave.
The answer to why Mayawati dumped the SP will unfold over time.
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At this moment, Akhilesh Yadav seems to be the loser in the bua-bhatija game. He is alone. Both his uncle Shivpal Yadav and father Mulayam Singh might be telling him – We told you so! As Lok Sabha MP, he will now have to spend time in Delhi besides Lucknow – dividing it between family, Parliament and strengthening the party.
Next assembly election in UP is due only in 2022. But he has to prove that the SP is ‘the’ opposition party in UP, something that the BSP will also try to claim.
We don’t know if his training at the Dholpur Sainik School will be of any help in the toughest battle of his life. We don’t know if anyone is shedding a tear for him. The most important thing is that he is all alone in this battle. Rejected, dejected and betrayed.
The author is a senior journalist. Views are personal.