SP-BSP roller coaster: After 26 years, same alliance, same challenge

Ahead of the 1993 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) veterans, Kanshi Ram and Mulayam Singh Yadav,respectively, sprung a surprise in political circles by announcing an electoral alliance.

They had several rounds of secret meetings in New Delhi, of which few were aware of.

Both were heading fledgling parties. For the SP, it was their maiden election after the party’s formation in October 1992 and the BSP was struggling to create a political niche in the state. Its highest tally was 12 seats in the 1991 state polls.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—riding high on the saffron wave after the Babri Masjid’s demolition in December 1992—was confident of a windfall after its Kalyan Singh- led government was dismissed, necessitating the mid-term poll.

The BJP emerged as the single largest party, but fell short of the majority mark, bagging 177 seats in a house of 425. No other party came forward to support the BJP, which was considered ‘untouchable’ then.

The SP and BSP contested 256 and 164 seats respectively, and won 109 and 67. They mustered the support of other parties like the Congress, Communist Party of India(Marxist) and the Communist Party of India as the political narrative post-Babri demolition was secularism vs communalism.

Later, explaining the reasons behind the decision to ally with the SP, current BSP chief Mayawati had said, “we wanted to unite the ‘Bahujan Samaj’ under the leadership of someone from the Bahujan Samaj. We also wanted to checkmate the BJP’s growth on the temple issue. But the experiment failed because of Mulayam’s selfish politics.”

After 26 years, the two leaders who inherited their respective parties, Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati, are reuniting to take on a resurgent BJP leaving behind a trail of scuffles and abuses that the two parties had exchanged after a violent split in 1995. While Kanshi Ram is no more, Mulayam has taken a backseat ever since his son Akhilesh took control of the party.

The two leaders had parted ways after the infamous state guest incident of 1995. The BSP’s decision to pull out of the tottering coalition had sparked a violent reaction by SP workers, forcing Mayawati to lock herself in a room. The BJP had jumped to her rescue and propped her up as the first Dalit chief minister of the state.

The BJP’s aim was to create a permanent wedge between the two parties as it was detrimental to their electoral health. And they succeeded.

Barbs were exchanged, CDs were circulated and FIRs were lodged by both the parties. Mayawati later even demanded a public apology from Mulayam for the state guest house incident and said, “had he run the coalition government properly, there would have been no need for the BSP to join hands with the BJP or for Mulayam to run from pillar to post in quest of power.”

In fact, while Mulayam was the CM, Mayawati was the ‘super CM’. Both she and Kanshi Ram used to call the shots holding fortnightly monitoring of the government’s performance that culminated with the public humiliation of Mulayam.

However, much water has flown since they parted ways.

The challenge from the BJP is bigger. The spectre of Ayodhya continues to loom large over the electoral scene. And, they will have to combat the political skills of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah.

However, both SP and BSP have grown robust since 1993. They have dominated the state, rotating power in alliance with like-minded parties till 2007 when Mayawati broke the coalition jinx. Five years later in 2012, Akhilesh formed the majority government. Both were decimated by the BJP in 2017.