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Anti-BJP parties signing up for state-level tie-ups than Mahagathbandhan

Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav along with Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati. Photo: HT

With the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party close to finalising their pre-poll alliance in Uttar Pradesh for the 2019 general elections, probability of strategic state-level tie-ups instead of a national anti-Bharatiya Janata Party Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance). The Congress is not yet part of this alliance though the SP-BSP have kept the door open for the premier political party which, however, has a marginal presence in Uttar Pradesh.

Indications of state-level alliances instead of one grand and national alliance are also emerging from other states. In Maharashtra, the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) are set to formalise their pre-poll alliance though the two parties have not been able to settle dispute over 8 key seats. Other anti-BJP parties like Prakash Ambedkar’s Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, the Left parties, and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen Party (MIM) are not yet part of the opposition alliance in Maharashtra. In Uttar Pradesh too, the Congress, which fought the 2017 UP assembly elections in alliance with the SP, is not yet part of the SP-BSP arrangement though the SP declared on Sunday that the alliance would not contest the seats of Amethi and Rae Bareli, the home turfs of Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi. But these are likely to be the only two seats in Uttar Pradesh that the SP-BJP are likely to leave for the Congress as media reports that appeared on Sunday suggest the SP and BSP would each contest 37 seats. UP has 80 Lok Sabha seats and the BJP had won 71 on its own in 2014.

In Maharashtra, the top leaders of Congress and NCP have held several rounds of talks with NCP chief Sharad Pawar meeting his Congress counterpart Rahul Gandhi at least five times over the last several months. State NCP chief Jayant Patil told reporters on Saturday that the two parties had reached consensus on 40 of the total 48 seats and that dispute over the remaining 8 seats would be resolved by Sunday. While the two parties are likely to agree to an equitable seat-sharing formula, smaller allies and other anti-BJP parties are likely to be accommodated in the individual quotas of Congress and NCP. But the Left parties, SP, and BSP are not part of this alliance yet and Prakash Ambedkar’s Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh and MIM have already announced an independent alliance. A couple of months back, the NCP suggested that Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) be made part of this alliance since the latter has been very critical of the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

However, the Congress rejected this suggestion outright saying the MNS school of politics did not sit well with the secular brand of Congress politics. Similarly, the Shiv Sena, which is still part of the BJP-led NDA despite being a bitter Modi critic but which has so far rejected BJP’s overtures for a pre-poll alliance, virtually ruled itself out of this emerging anti-BJP dispensation in November last year when Uddhav Thackeray went to Ayodhya and upped the ante for Ram mandir. Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis promptly remined the Shiv Sena that it had to ally with the BJP only if it was committed to Hindutva.

Contours of this anti-BJP narrative and alliance are also likely to emerge out of an anti-BJP rally called by the Trinamool Congress in Kolkata on January 19. Though TMC supremo and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee will be the main protagonist at this rally which the TMC has advertised as a big anti-BJP jamboree, other prominent opposition leaders Banerjee has personally invited are likely to show up as well.

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