Tuesday, 17 May, 2022
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How bitter rivals BSP and SP came together for Gorakhpur and Phulpur LS bypolls

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Mayawati insists it’s not an alliance, but the two arch-rivals joining hands is still a significant development in India’s most politically-significant state.

New Delhi:
The announcement of the Bahujan Samaj Party joining hands with the Samajwadi Party for the Lok Sabha bypolls in Uttar Pradesh this month may appear like a dramatic response to the results of the assembly elections in Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya but this political milestone was in the works for weeks, if not longer, sources in both parties have told ThePrint.

While the SP has been willing to tie up with the BSP for a while now, the latter kept snubbing any talk of an alliance.

During the budget session of the UP assembly in February, the SP and the BSP came together on a number of occasions, especially on the issue of encounters and law and order. Ram Govind Chaudhary, the leader of the opposition from the SP, and Lalji Verma, leader of the BSP in the house, sat together several times to discuss house proceedings.

“However it was only related to activities in the house, and there was no talk about forging an alliance,” said an SP leader close to the development.

In the interim, the bypoll dates were announced, and the SP fielded candidates from both seats.

Now, as party policy, the BSP doesn’t contest bypolls. However, during one of the meetings between Chaudhary and Verma post the UP budget, the proposal for supporting SP candidates was briefly discussed.

Chaudhary’s argument was that if the BSP wasn’t contesting, the votes from its support base might go to the BJP, and help the party win the seats comfortably – after all, the sitting MPs on both seats were BJP members Yogi Adityanath (Gorakhpur) and K.P. Maurya (Phulpur), who resigned to take over as CM and deputy CM of UP. Chaudhary was of the opinion that there was no harm in the BSP supporting the SP.

Both leaders decided to consult their party leadership and speak again. A few meetings later, the two arch-rivals agreed on a barter deal.

In April, elections will take place for 10 Rajya Sabha seats in UP. The BJP’s massive win in last year’s assembly polls has ensured that the party will be able to elect eight of its candidates. The SP, with 47 MLAs, can win one seat and will have a surplus of 12 votes. The BSP has 19 MLAs and the Congress seven, so together, they can win the tenth seat.

It’s important to note here that during the entire deal-making process, not once did SP chief Akhilesh Yadav speak to Mayawati – it was all done through Chaudhary and Verma. It was also agreed that none of these two leaders would make the announcement; local leaders would do so without creating any hype.

Once the deal was done in Lucknow Thursday, Akhilesh left for the Yadav family’s hometown Saifai for Holi.

The announcement

Ghanshyam Chandra Kharwar, the BSP’s Gorakhpur in-charge, declared support to SP candidate Praveen Kumar Nishad in the presence of senior SP leader Udayveer Singh and others Sunday.

Ashok Gautam, the BSP’s zonal co-ordinator in Allahabad, also announced support to SP candidate Nagendra Singh Patel in the Phulpur bypoll.

“Our workers want to eliminate the BJP, and that’s why we have decided to support the SP,” he said.

Neither party is currently willing to speak about any future coalition right now. But bypolls will be a litmus test for both, to see if they can stop the BJP by pooling their votes together. Both constituencies have sizeable Dalit voters, which might switch to the SP under the BSP’s influence, which would make the fight interesting.

‘Not an alliance’

It’s not an alliance – that much was made clear by Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati, Sunday: “We have not floated any candidate for the Phulpur and Gorakhpur bypolls. Our party members will exercise their vote to defeat the BJP candidate.”

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