Exactly 15 years ago, in the summer of 2003, Lal Krishna Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee made tireless efforts to bring Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) into the national alliance before the elections. In return, there was talk of the BJP supporting the BSP when there was a hung assembly in Uttar Pradesh.
This alliance was to be formed that year before the elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly. It was very difficult to negotiate.
Mayawati realized that there would be a dent in her vote bank and she could turn to the BJP, but the BJP could not get the BSP to vote. The BJP was aware of the hard work of the BSP’s militant activists, but Mayawati did not like this alliance formula.
It is a coincidence again after fifteen years that assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are near. In Karnataka, a few days ago, the Congress-JD (S) gained power by forming an alliance after the elections. By giving the post of Chief Minister to Kumaraswamy, the Congress led by Rahul Gandhi has come to power.
There is a need in the three states of North India that the opposition parties forget the differences and form a pre-election alliance. Like the readiness of the Congress and JD (S) in Karnataka after the elections, so is the need in the states of North India. The question is whether the Congress and JD (S) will be able to complete the five-year term? Will this alliance continue for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections as well?
Given the conditions, it does not seem that the Congress alone will be able to beat the BJP till 2019, the party will have to make radical changes in its electoral principles – one is that it will have to form a pre-poll alliance with regional parties like BSP.
But why are alliances needed?
1) After a long time, the BSP election is a favorable party for a full alliance.
Perhaps the BSP has realized that even though it may be India’s third largest party in terms of vote share, it could not win a single seat due to lack of alliances in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. A change in strategy is necessary to convert votes into seats. Whether there was an alliance with the Samajwadi Party in Phulpur and Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh or with the JD (S) in Karnataka – both examples suggest that other parties have an alliance with the BSP. And goes well. For 2019, the BSP has formed an alliance with the SP, while in Haryana an alliance with the Rashtriya Lok Dal has been decided.
On this occasion, the Congress should talk to Mayawati without losing time and this year, an alliance should be formed before the Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh assembly elections. This election is the first semi final of 2019. Congress should work on all its weak sides.
The BSP’s significant hold over Dalits in North Indian states can be a decisive factor. Mayawati’s party is able to bring 2 to 10 lakh votes in every state and she also has a presence in almost all the North Indian states. It can go in favor of Congress in tough competition. In 2014, the BSP emerged as the third largest party with 23 million votes. His vote percentage was 4.1, which was found mainly in the states of North India.
During the Madhya Pradesh assembly elections in 2013, the BSP got five seats with 6.42 percent vote share. In the Bundelkhand region, the BSP’s vote share went up to around 10 percent. The BSP can play an important role in securing a majority to the Congress as a coalition partner.
2) Any ‘non-Congress, non-BJP’ pre-election alliance will harm the Congress.
It seems difficult that the Congress will form alliances with parties like TDP (Andhra Pradesh), Trinamool (West Bengal), CPM or YSR Congress (Andhra Pradesh). These parties are seen moving towards a non-Congress, non-BJP alliance.
But no Congress alliance will work without the BSP. JD (S) and BSP had formed a similar alliance just before the Karnataka elections but the results were not clear.
The Congress-JD (S) -BSP alliance would have voted 57 percent in its favor in this election. But BJP emerged as the single largest party with 36 percent votes. The result of Karnataka proves that the Congress should have a pre-election alliance. Even in those areas where Congress is strong, it should combine.
The BJP had tied up with smaller parties like Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party and Apna Dal in the Uttar Pradesh elections. This should also be taken as a lesson for small parties. At present, the Congress has only one solid alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). Since it is in Bihar where Congress is weak and number four party.
Congress should take a back seat in Uttar Pradesh. Meaning that the SP-BSP should be associated with the alliance. But in other states, an alliance with the BSP can give the Congress legitimate seats.
3) Congress will emerge as a Dalit-Bahujan-centric party when it comes with BSP
The Congress should abandon the politics of ‘soft Hindutva’ and form a strong Bahujan alliance, in which the participation of OBCs, Dalits and Muslims. If the Congress shows speed in alliances with parties of its kind, then the BJP will find out the issues that divide Hindu-Muslim. Congress will present SP and BSP as Muslim appeasement parties. The BJP will do its utmost to support Hindu voters.
However, against these issues, the Congress alliance can raise issues like the SC-ST Act or the UGC’s new rules on the difference in reservation policies. These issues will put BJP on the defensive.
The BSP has been supporting the Congress-led UPA since 2004. In the Center and in many states such as Uttarakhand, the BSP has saved the Congress. In Karnataka too, Mayawati has played an important role in forging an alliance between Sonia Gandhi and JD (S) chief HD Deve Gowda.
There is no doubt that Mayawati also dreams of becoming Prime Minister. The 2019 Lok Sabha election is also an opportunity for him to fulfill his ambitions. But the Congress can leave this question fixed after the election. The Congress can leave the candidature for the post open by not telling Rahul Gandhi as the only Prime Ministerial candidate.
There may be opposition from within the Congress on the issue of alliance with the BSP. They may be afraid of the return of BSP. The reason is that the rise of BSP in Uttar Pradesh in the 1980s led to the political downfall of the Congress. But the Congress should realize that the claim and expectations are very high in the 2019 elections.
Karnataka has once again underlined the need for opposition unity. The Congress party should focus on this.