Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav with Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati | PTI
Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav with Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati | PTI
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BSP and SP are likely contest 37 seats each, which will leave six of Uttar Pradesh’s 80 Lok Sabha constituencies without a contender from either party.

Lucknow: The chiefs of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP), for long arch rivals in India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, will host their first-ever joint press conference in Lucknow Saturday afternoon to announce their alliance for the Lok Sabha polls.

In an invitation sent to mediapersons Friday, the national secretaries of the two parties stated that the conference at Taj Hotel will be addressed by BSP chief Mayawati and SP president Akhilesh Yadav, both former chief ministers.

“This is the first time the two leaders will be addressing a gathering together,” a senior SP leader told ThePrint. “The conference will be for nothing else but the alliance.”

According to party leaders, both parties will likely contest 37 seats each, leaving six of the state’s 80 Lok Sabha constituencies without a contender from either. While the BSP won no seat in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the SP got five.

Also read: Mayawati assures Akhilesh Yadav of support amid CBI probe into mining scam

‘Congress out for now’

Although the Congress has been kept out of the alliance for now, the SP-BSP front is unlikely to field candidates against the party’s president Rahul Gandhi in Amethi and his mother and predecessor Sonia Gandhi in Rae Bareli. The Gandhis were the only Congress members to register wins in UP in 2014.

“As a matter of principle, we have decided to not contest these two seats,” said a senior SP leader.

“With regard to the Congress, for now, they have been kept outside the alliance… For now, it seems that the seat distribution between the SP and the BSP will be 37 each,” the leader added.

The Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) of Ajit Singh, which enjoys a substantial following among Jat voters in western Uttar Pradesh, is likely to be drawn into the fray, sources said.

“We are in talks with the RLD… its vice-president Jayant Chaudhary (Ajit Singh’s son) had met Akhilesh two days ago,” an SP leader said.

“However, things have not been finalised yet. A meeting about seat-sharing is likely to be held after tomorrow’s press conference,” the party leader added.

In 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ally Apna Dal swept the polls and scripted history by winning 73 of the state’s 80 Lok Sabha seats.

However, a closer look at the distribution of votes in the seats won by the BJP and its ally shows that in at least 39 seats, SP-BSP had more votes than those polled in favour of the winner.

Last year, the SP-BSP combine wrested two BJP strongholds in Lok Sabha bypolls — Gorakhpur, the former constituency of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, and Phulpur.

Also read: Mayawati calls Centre’s move to give 10% quota to ‘weaker’ upper castes an ‘election stunt’

Eyes on quota impact

Even so, parties are keeping a close watch on how the BJP-led NDA government’s recent decision to announce 10 per cent quota in jobs and education for the upper-caste poor will pan out.

A Congress leader told ThePrint that the party had a better shot at defeating BJP if it stayed out of the SP-BSP alliance.

“By remaining outside the alliance, there is a greater possibility of defeating the BJP,” said the leader.

“In the past, we have seen how our upper-caste votes are likely to go to the BJP if we enter into an alliance with the SP,” the leader added.

The Congress and the SP had contested the 2017 UP assembly election together, but not to much success. While the BJP stormed to power with 312 of the state’s 403 assembly seats, the SP (47) and the Congress (seven) together won 54.

“This will be even more pronounced due to the SP-BSP combination and the 10 per cent reservation. The reservation is a poll gimmick by the BJP,” the leader said.

“There is a large section of upper-caste voters, primarily farmers and traders, who are unhappy with the BJP. If the Congress contests alone, those votes are likely to come to us,” the leader added.

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