BJP's big UP loss: Can SP-BSP enter a proper marriage of convenience?

Losing Gorakhpur and Phulpur brings down BJP tally in Lok Sabha to 272.

Mumbai: Two things are clear from the bypoll results of two key Parliamentary seats in Uttar Pradesh.

One, Yogi Adityanath’s popularity as chief minister, the bearer of its hardline Hindutva agenda, has taken a huge hit and his ability to lead the state to 2019 is now under scrutiny.

Two, while Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati still prefers to stay mum on calling it a proper alliance, her successful support to Samjawadi Party candidates in these two seats tests the ground for a grander tie-up ahead of the 2019 general polls. But ‘wait and watch’, is all we are getting out of these camps at the moment.

Losing the two seats today – Gorakhpur and Phulpur in Uttar Pradesh – brings down BJP’s tally in the Lok Sabha to 272, just enough for a simple majority. The party had won 282 seats in 2014, and had often flaunted that number before allies as good enough to run on its own.

But what went wrong for Yogi Adityanath? How did the BJP lose two seats formerly held by its chief minister and his deputy?

In Uttar Pradesh’s last Assembly elections, the BJP and allies got 325 out of the 403 seats, SP 47, BSP 19 and the Congress 7.

There was a grand alliance between Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi then, but the duo completely misread the mood.

In the 2017 Panchayat elections too, the BJP had held sway, winning 14 out of the 16 mayoral posts in the state.

It is learnt both losing BJP candidates today were thrust by the high command against the wishes of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath (former MP, Gorakhpur) and Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya (former MP, Phulpur).

Upendra Shukla, who lost from Gorakhpur, is the son of S P Shukla, a man not much liked by Yogi Adityanath. The party high command’s decision to give Upendra a ticket did cause the Yogi cadre a lot of angst though the chief minister actively campaigned in the constituency. He had confidently called the bypoll “a dress rehearsal for the 2019 elections”.

SP’s winner Pravin Nishad benefitted from this rift in the BJP base, coupled by his popularity among the Nishad community which has a sizeable presence. The Congress, perhaps irritated with the new SP-BSP flirting, put up a weak candidate, Seema Wajahat Rizvi.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had got 28.28 per cent vote share in Gorakhpur, while the SP-BSP combine got 21.13 per cent.

But what a turnaround it has been for the BJP in Phulpur, a constituency vacated by former MP and present deputy chief minister Keshav Maurya. In 2014, Keshav Maurya had defeated BSP’s Kapil Karvariya by over three lakh votes. The BJP got 26.30 per cent to the SP-BSP’s 18.54.

Both the SP and BJP put up Patel candidates in this constituency since the community has a strong presence here with over three lakh voters. This coupled with disgruntled murmurs about Maurya’s complete inefficiency was enough to pip the post towards SP’s Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel, who won by 59,613 votes. The BJP’s Kaushalendra Patel was an ‘outsider’, the former mayor of Varanasi.

Only time will tell whether the SP-BSP’s loose handshake these bypolls would progress to a full-fledged marriage of convenience in 2019. Will Mayawati conquer her bitterness towards the SP after the infamous guesthouse incident of 1995?

The last time the duo came together was in 1993 to stop the BJP from coming to power after its previous chief minister Kalyan Singh’s government was sacked in the aftermath of the Babri demolition.

Mulayam Singh managed to become the chief minister in that alliance. Two years on, on June 1, 1995, Mayawati pulled the plug on the coalition government and was allegedly held captive in a Lucknow guesthouse the next day by SP supporters. She had even alleged there was an attempt on her life.

At the moment, what Mayawati is getting in return is the SP’s support for her Rajya Sabha candidates in elections later this month.

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