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Changing Equations

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After many faux announcements over the past weeks, the SP and BSP finally declared their intent to contest the Lok Sabha elections together in the state of Uttar Pradesh. They will contest thirty-eight seats, each, leaving two seats for other parties. (The arrogant disregard for RLD aspirations may have an impact on Jat votes, everywhere.) Amethi and Rae-Bareli will be left for the Congress as a face-saver for Rahul and Sonia Gandhi, keeping the door open for post-election negotiations, but obviously from a position of strength.
That Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati are willing to concede space to each other in UP is an acknowledgement of the BJP’s dominant position in that state. Had there been, as has been claimed by opposition leaders and some analysts, an anti-incumbent wave, the SP and BSP would have tried their best to become the preferred alternative. For Mayawati, though, anything like a good showing will be a great improvement over the past.
One major reason for the alliance is the desire not to divide the Muslim support, which despite its skill in tactical voting against the BJP does occasionally get confused in choosing between SP and BSP candidates. Keeping out the Congress clearly indicates that the party has little clout left in the state and whatever few Muslim votes it might take away (out of sentiment and past loyalty), will be more than compensated by the upper-caste vote it attracts from the BJP.
There is also the issue of transferability of votes. Congress voters are being seen as ‘non-transferable’, meaning they will not allow the party’s leaders to dictate which other party to vote for. Their second preference would generally be the BJP. In fact, the big danger for Congress is that many of its voters may shift loyalty to the BJP, seeing the little chance of its candidates winning. BSP voters are most loyal when it comes to voting as Mayawati orders. In contrast, the BSP Supremo may find that the SP vote-bank is not so pliable. She may get the ditch at many places. The usual support that both these parties obtain from the establishment in UP will also be missing this time, as it is the BJP in power.
The more or less eradication of the Congress in UP even before the elections begin – despite the claims made by Ghulam Nabi Azad on Sunday – will have an impact on votes elsewhere in the Hindi Heartland, because it will not be seen as the contender for power. That may encourage the undecided to go with the BJP. Power equations, it seems, are already changing.