As far as the theory goes, political parties are created to serve the people in accordance with specific ideologies that are expected to inspire the members and help them work towards a commonly agreed goal. The Left has Marx and Mao, the BJP has ‘Hindutva’, the Congress, a Gandhian-Nehruvian mix, etc. Similarly, the main constituents of the erstwhile Mahagathbandhan in UP, the SP and BSP supposedly believe in Lohiate Socialism and Ambedkarite thought, respectively. How close these parties are to their ideologies and goals is another matter altogether. These and many others have descended to being dynastic and casteist organisations geared merely to acquire power no matter what compromises are made with their fundamental philosophies. At best, unity is achieved by hating a common enemy along various lines.
The ‘disillusionment’ of BSP Supremo Mayawati with the Samajwadi Party is an example of the inherent contradictions and hypocrisy of such politics. The ground reality probably is that the SP-BSP did better in the recent Lok Sabha elections because they were in an alliance, otherwise they could have been completely wiped out. This is what simple arithmetic would have it. However, the reason for the displeasure of the two parties is that both feel betrayed by the lack of support from each other’s votebanks. This is explained by the tendency among SP and BSP voters to favour the BJP if they do not have their own party candidates to support. The expected level of vote-transfer did not take place, except in the case of Muslim voters. In fact, the primary reason for the alliance was not to split the anti-BJP Muslim vote. Once the alliance failed, the incompatibility of party ideologies and the ambitions of the respective leaders kicked-in and the inevitable happened. Some had suggested before the elections that this would happen even if the two parties managed to win large numbers of seats.
An important lesson should have been learned by all concerned. There can only be an alliance if ideologies match, or are refined to common essentials. This is obviously difficult for caste based parties without annihilation of caste consciousness. The leadership might discover that the stated objective of defeating the BJP becomes easier if party supporters can exercise their ‘first’ preference instead of having to go for a second one. The coming bypolls in UP should bear out the truth of this. The minus point, however, would be the Muslims having to vote tactically, as selecting the possible winning candidate becomes more difficult. It would be better, perhaps, for opposition parties in UP to find common ground on particular issues to do what they should actually be doing – achieving ideological objectives rather than defeating the BJP. They would function as an effective opposition and serve the people better.