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SP, BSP lead talks to form Grand Alliance against BJP

LiveMint logoLiveMint 16-04-2017 Meenal Thakur

New Delhi: A little over a month after the Uttar Pradesh elections, which saw the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) secure a historic victory, a possible grand alliance of regional and national parties is now in the works to take on the BJP for the Lok Sabha election due in 2019.

Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party (SP) and Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)—the two key regional parties of Uttar Pradesh—have initiated talks among themselves as well as with Rahul Gandhi-led Congress, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United), or JDU, Lalu Prasad-led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

“There are no ideological differences between SP and BSP. The formation of a grand alliance is a reality and talks have been initiated at the highest level. There is the NDA and now UPA kind of an alliance will be witnessed in the coming days. Now that BJP has gone to Odisha, we will also reach out to the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) chief Naveen Patnaik to join the anti-BJP alliance at the national level. Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee and Lalu Prasad have also spoken about a grand alliance. The biggest hindrance in such an alliance was Mayawati and SP leadership but those two leaders have also started talking about a grand alliance and now the differences will end soon,” said a senior SP leader based in Lucknow.

The big BJP win in Uttar Pradesh is put down by many political analysts to the fact that the SP and BSP fought the election separately rather than in an alliance.

The SP could only secure 47 seats and the BSP was reduced to just 19 seats while the BJP secured a historic 312 out of 403 assembly seats. But after the loss, the SP and BSP came together to target the BJP with allegations of tampering of electronic voting machines.

Recently the two leaders have expressed their readiness to be part of any anti-BJP alliance. “In the coming time, whatever alliance is formed in the country, SP will play an important role in it,” said Akhilesh Yadav while addressing a press conference in Lucknow on Saturday.

The coming together of these two major opposition parties, along with others, to form an anti-BJP front could be significant as, fighting individually, the BSP had secured a vote share of 22.2% and the SP 21.8% compared to the BJP’s 39.7% in the UP election.

Though opposition parties are hoping that a grand alliance will be able to defeat the BJP, like it did during the Bihar assembly election in 2015, doubts still remain about the constituents reaching a consensus on various issues.

“Though BSP has initiated talks with SP, TMC, RJD, JD(U), the discussion will only be fruitful if all parties will be flexible in terms of the seat sharing. Leadership will be another challenge as leaders of the various parties in the alliance would want to head it, so we need to reach a consensus; otherwise the alliance won’t work out,” said a BSP leader based in Lucknow.

Even though SP is one of the parties which is at the forefront of negotiations, factionalism within the party and the fact that it left the grand alliance in Bihar have made other parties wary of SP.

“The grand alliance cannot happen without Congress at its core. Nitish Kumar has been talking about it for long but the SP had sabotaged it earlier as well. Now we have to see who in SP is talking about a grand alliance—is it the Akhilesh Yadav camp or Mulayam Singh camp. The SP needs to clarify what it wants to do. There is no option but to form a grand alliance against BJP but a national-level alliance will need an earnest effort on the part of SP,” said a senior JDU leader based in Delhi.

Analysts say the effectiveness of the alliance cannot be ruled out if it materializes as it will make the election a bi-polar contest. “The fundamental premise of any alliance is the transferability of votes and we see that the Indian voter is moving beyond caste considerations while voting. The public has voted significantly for BJP’s development narrative twice—in 2014 and 2016—so the alliance has to present itself as an alternative and not merely as an anti-BJP outfit. Despite these challenges, one cannot take the alliance lightly,” said A.K. Verma, a Kanpur-based political analyst.

“The top leadership has been in talks with both the SP and BSP. While the presidential polls is a rallying point for this, the talks are mainly happening with an eye at 2019. The details of it still being worked out as there is time. Congress would want to play a key role in such an alliance,” said a senior Congress leader from Uttar Pradesh requesting anonymity.

meenal.t@livemint.com

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