Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party and Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party today held a joint press conference to announce the much-awaited grand alliance (mahagathbandhan) for Uttar Pradesh. The BSP and the SP will contest 38 seats each, leaving 4 for others, mostly 2 family seats of the Congress and 2 for others (Nishad Party, in all likelihood). Mayawati thundered that this alliance will give sleepless nights to the BJP. Akhilesh commented that the BJP was trying to promote hatred in the land of Lord Ram and dividing people along communal lines. In theory, the MGB poses a stiff challenge to the BJP in 2019 after defeating BJP candidates in three by-polls last year, including the seats previously held by the CM and Deputy CM.
UP Helped BJP Gain Majority in 2014
The BJP swept the state bagging 71 out of 80 seats, even higher than at the peak of the Ram Mandir temple movement. One-fourth of the BJP’s overall tally (71 out of 282) came from Uttar Pradesh, which propelled it become the only party after Congress in 30 years to attain majority on its own. Modi decided to contest from Varanasi which had a ripple effect in the entire state. Amit Shah attained the status of Chanakya after this historic victory. Is Uttar Pradesh That Important?
Uttar Pradesh is India’s largest state in terms of population. It accounts for 80 seats, the highest in the country, in the parliament thus making up for 15% of its total strength. Majority of the Indian prime ministers (9 out of 15) have come from Uttar Pradesh, or were MPs from the state including Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Charan Singh, Rajiv Gandhi, V.P. Singh, Chandrasekhar, Atal Bihari Vajapyee and Narendra Modi.
It seems, therefore, important for a party to do well in Uttar Pradesh if it wants to form government at the centre. Mayawati is also hoping to become the prime minister of the country by winning maximum seats from Uttar Pradesh in 2019.
Data Shows UP is Not Necessarily the Gateway to Power
Elections data from 1989, the advent of coalition era, shows otherwise. Most parties that have done well in Uttar Pradesh have not been able to form government at the centre or have had no role in government formation. Out of the last eight governments, parties which scored the maximum seats in the state could form government only half of the times in 1989, 1998, 1999 and 2014.
As a matter of fact, the party which scored the least in UP in 1991 and 2004 went on to form the government.
Here is what the electoral history of UP tells us:
❖ In 1989, Janata Dal scored more than 50 seats and formed the government.
❖ In 1991, the BJP scored more than 50 but couldn’t form the government.
❖ In 1996, the BJP, again, scored a 50 but failed to form the government.
❖ In 1998, the BJP formed the government after sweeping the state.
❖ In 1999, the BJP’s tally reduced to half (29), with just 3 more seats than the SP, but it managed to form the government.
❖ In 2004, the SP got the maximum seats, but the Congress, which got less than 10 seats, formed the government. SP didn’t get any cabinet berths.
❖ In 2009, the SP again got the maximum seats, but the Congress formed the government. The SP and the BSP, despite doing well like in 2004, didn’t get any cabinet berths.
❖ In 2014, the BJP swept UP and Modi became the prime minister.
All Eyes on MGB to Defeat BJP
Opposition parties are placing a lot of hope on the SP and the BSP to dent the BJP and reduce its chances of coming back in power. If the BSP and the SP would have contested together in 2014, BJP’s / NDA’s tally would have reduced by 32 seats, down from 73 to 41, assuming seamless transfer of votes. They do present a potent combination of Dalit, Muslim, Tribal and Yadav voters, representing almost half of the population of the state and could give a tough fight to the BJP.
MGB Could Be Left High and Dry
The SP and the BSP bagged more than half of the seats of UP contesting independently during 1999-2009. However, they were not able to extract ministerial positions in the centre. The harsh stand which Mayawati has taken against the Congress in the press conference today, leaves little scope for MGB to partner in a non-BJP government led by the Congress in 2019.
History May Offer Solace To Modi
Even if MGB is able to damage the BJP by 30 odd seats in UP, as some opinion polls predict, there is hope still for the party. It is already seen devising strategies to make gains in East, North East and South. The party which doesn’t do well in UP has also gone on to form governments in the centre in the past, and this data gives hope to BJP.
To sum up, MGB good show in UP doesn’t guarantee them the hot seat in 2019, neither it means Modi can’t come back to power. As data shows, UP doesn’t necessarily hold the keys to power in the centre.
This article was first published on thequint.com on 13 Jan, 2019.