But this needn’t be taken at face value with an extremely flexible politician like the BSP supremo.
After BSP supremo Mayawati chose to skip allying with the Congress in Chhattisgarh, favouring Congress discard Ajit Jogi’s micro-local party instead, it was evident that she would have little to do with the Congress even in Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan. Her Thursday announcement thus comes as no surprise.
Ms Mayawati fumed at the Congress as much as the BJP, yet she singled out Congress leaders Sonia and Rahul Gandhi for a positive mention, hinting that the chances of a tieup with the Congress for the Lok Sabha polls was still open.
But this needn’t be taken at face value with an extremely flexible politician like the BSP supremo. Her final decision may in the end depend on the election results in Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh.
If her party can improve its vote percentage in these states from its current status of being very small, she is likely to adopt one kind of posture in the Uttar Pradesh negotiation with the Congress for the general election. If her voteshare slips and the Congress cuts into the dalit vote in the states going to the polls shortly, an apparently weakened BSP may choose another way in UP.
For some time the Congress has been left with a very small core vote in UP. Even the Gandhis will be happy to keep the BSP and Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, both of whose social base will matter at Rae Bareli and Amethi, on their side for the Lok Sabha polls.
Therefore, it should be seen if the Congress can make an offer to Ms Mayawati she cannot refuse over Rajasthan, although the BSP leader has spoken of no tieup with the Congress in the Assembly polls anywhere. Mr Yadav has also hinted to the Congress that they choose this road when he asked the Congress to show greater magnanimity to regional parties.
The SP leader is apt to worry that if the BSP is totally alienated from the Congress in the coming state polls, Ms Mayawati could be a potential NDA partner after the Parliament election in case the NDA does well. In that scenario it is not unlikely that the BSP will drive a hard bargain with the SP in UP, upsetting SP cadres. That will work to the advantage of the BJP, which is expected to be in serious trouble only if the SP and BSP are able to reach an understanding amicably. Taking steps to avert that outcome will be very much on the minds of BJP president Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Which way the coming Assembly polls go will be a good barometer to gauge the prospects of Opposition unity for the Lok Sabha election in crucial northern states where the BJP had pretty much picked up everything in its path.