Hours after snatching Gorakhpur and Phulpur from the BJP, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav drove up to meet BSP supremo Mayawati at her residence – indicating that the coming together of the big two of Uttar Pradesh (UP) politics was not a one-off affair.
Both are desperate to set aside a bitter past to stop the Modi juggernaut. The poll result has a two-pronged message for UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath and the BJP.
“Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Congress were separate, but in the middle of the election they decided to do a deal and form an alliance. We failed to understand it, and somehow, overconfidence was one of the reasons for it,” said Adityanath.
In one stroke, the CM admitted poor assessment of the ground situation and failure to adapt and strategise for the changed situation in a state without which the BJP may have no future in Raisina Hill in Delhi. Adityanath was not the party’s CM face in UP. The BJP used ‘Brand Modi’.
Yogi was given a ticket to rule with 325 law-makers in the 404 MLA-strong UP assembly – the first decisive mandate since 1980s. Under his watch the BJP not just lost Phulpur, the seat vacated by his deputy Keshav Maurya, but also Gorakhpur where he has won five straight Lok Sabha polls.
The defeat has sent a surge of enthusiasm in the Opposition which in 2014 and 2017 was sucked into the black abyss of defeats. There is, however, a rider.
Electoral arrangement for two seats is easy. A pan-UP alliance for 80 seats will be difficult. In the bypoll for the two seats, Mayawati has displayed her capability to en mass transfer her vote to the SP, but the same cannot be said for the latter. The minority voters avoided a split by not voting for a Muslim candidate, Atiq Ahmed, in Phulpur, and focusing on defeating the BJP. If this trend holds, the BJP will be in trouble.
Akhilesh had tried to reach out to Congress president Rahul Gandhi ahead of the poll. But Gandhi was not in town. Sources say Akhilesh SMSed him, but the very next day the Congress went ahead and announced its candidates for the two seats. With Gandhi driving the grand old party toward revival, there are apprehensions that the party may not settle to being a marginal player.
There are already questions about Yogi’s electoral equity, especially in the absence of a polarised atmosphere. He has not exactly impressed with his administrative skills and has done little to deliver the promised development and employment.
The party can right now hope that the Ram Mandir issue hanging fire in Supreme Court for quite some years reaches a closure in 2018.
A verdict in favour of the temple can change the picture. Mandir has the potential to demolish caste consolidations. The BJP will need divine help and an emotive appeal if Akhilesh and Mayawati do overcome the hurdles to stay together till March 2019.