An alliance between the Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh could set the tone for a pan-India tie-up between the two parties ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, according to several Congress leaders familiar with the developments.
Seat-sharing talks between the parties for the upcoming assembly elections in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh have entered a “decisive stage”, a Congress functionary said.
Madhya Pradesh Congress chief Kamal Nath had last month said his party will try to prevent any division of Opposition votes in the state and confirmed that seat-by-seat negotiations were on with Mayawati’s BSP to firm up the alliance.
Dalits, who constitute the main support base of the BSP, account for more than 15% of Madhya Pradesh’s 75 million population. The BSP had contested 227 out of the total 230 seats in the 2013 assembly elections. Having a considerable presence in northern Madhya Pradesh, especially in Morena, it won four seats and bagged a vote share of 6.29%.
Congress in-charge of Chhattisgarh, PL Punia, said on Wednesday that seat-sharing talks between the two parties are on and a decision is expected soon.
The Congress is likely to offer nine seats to the BSP in Chhattisgarh, another party leader said on condition of anonymity. Dalits constitute 11.6% of the tribal-dominated state’s 26 million population. In the 2013 assembly elections, the BSP had fought all the 90 seats, winning one and accounting for 4.27%vote share.
In fact, BSP founder, the late Kanshi Ram, fought his first Lok Sabha election from Janjgir-Champa in Chhattisgarh, a district where the BSP has around 40% Satnami vote.
In Rajasthan, state Congress leaders are not keen on an alliance with any party while the BSP and Indian National Lok Dal have already announced a tie-up for the Nov-Dec polls.
Once finalised, the two parties are expected to start negotiations on other states for the 2019 polls. The Congress has already reached a strategic understanding with the BSP and Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh, the country’s politically most important state, which sends 80 members to the Lok Sabha.
The BSP did not respond to requests for a comment.The BSP is one of the six national parties with a pan-India presence. Mayawati’s party contested 503 out of the 543 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, but failed to open its account.
It registered a vote share of 4.19%, the third largest after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress. While the BJP bagged a 31.34% vote share and 282 seats, the Congress secured 44 seats with a 19.52% vote share.
The other three national parties — Communist Party of India (Marxist), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Communist Party of India — had a vote share of 3.28%, 1.58% and 0.79% respectively. The BSP is already a part of the ruling Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition in Karnataka, and there is also talk of the Congress and the NCP incorporating the BSP in their alliance in Maharashtra.
Mayawati’s party has made it clear to the Congress that it would like tie-ups, on respectable terms, in all the poll-bound states but the overall strategy of the grand old party so far has been to have state-specific alliances. Political observers are of the view that the Congress will stand to gain nothing if it goes for a national alliance with the BSP.
“In fact, BJP and Congress are the only two national parties and the other so-called national parties are actually multi-state political outfits. It is wiser for the Congress to have state-specific alliances for one can adjust to local circumstances. There is not much to be gained for the Congress if it goes for a national alliance with the BSP, which on the other hand will have a great advantage,” said Delhi-based political analyst Balveer Arora.