With Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav extending a hand of friendship to Bahujan Samaj Party Supremo Mayawati, chances for a coalition government of archrivals Samajwadi Party and BSP have increased.
“We would like to keep the BJP out at all costs and do not want the party to rule the state by remote control,” Akhilesh Yadav said in an interview with BBC Hindi.
According to exit polls, the 404-member Uttar Pradesh legislative assembly is likely to be divided between the three parties, with none getting required majority to form government.
Though Mayawati could go with the BJP or SP for alliance or outside support, chances of her going with the BJP are much lower because of how the votes have fallen.
Unlike earlier, when the BSP had a strong, almost monopolistic command over the Dalit vote, this time, the BJP seems to have made inroads into BSP’s tradional vote base, just as it has made inroad into some of Samajwadi Party’s OBC base.
At the same time, neither the SP nor the BSP have eaten into each others’ vote bases.
Political commentator Saba Naqvi pointed out that the BJP has a trackrecord of first allying with, and then subsuming regional parties. Shiva Sena of Maharashtra and Maharashtravadi Gomantak Party have both found to their expense that allying with the BJP could result in an eventual loss of their votebase to the ‘national’ party.
“Throughout the 90s, the BJP adopted this strategy with the BSP in UP,” Naqvi said, adding that it has now started paying back in the form of new Dalit votes.
Another factor that could prompt Mayawati to support the SP – Congress alliance is the Muslim factor.
Mayawati needs the support of one more voting block other than Dalits to come to power. Her attempts to woo Brahmins came to nothing, especially in the face of a resurgent BJP, which has traditionally attracted Brahmin votes since the decline of the Congress over the last two decades.
As such, Mayawati made a strong play for the Muslim votes this time. However, a wary Muslim community seems to have decided to bet on SP leader Akhilesh Yadav, who has managed to cultivate a pro-growth, pro-development image in recent years.
Allying with Yadav and ‘keeping the BJP out’ will be looked upon with favor by the Muslim community of the state. On the other hand, if she allies with the BJP, or supports no one, it could potentially drive these voters away from her party forever, with the prospect of no other vote block coming forward to support her in the future.
EXIT POLL MISTAKES
Even as all these discussions go on, the BJP will be hoping that the traditional mistake made by exit pollsters in India — that of erring on the side of caution and underestimating the lead of the biggest party — could again be a factor in Uttar Pradesh this time.
Typically, any lead projected by exit polls are exaggerated when the actual results come out.
According to the exit polls, the BJP is set to win around 180 seats, followed by the SP-Congress alliance with 130 seats and the BSP with around 80 seats. To get a majority and form the government, the BJP requires 203 seats, something that has been seen as a possibility by only one of the four exit polls.
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