History repeated itself after almost 26 years when leaders of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) – Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav respectively – shared the stage, this time from the Deoband town of Saharanpur in western Uttar Pradesh on a hot Sunday afternoon.
It was in 1993 that BSP founder the late Kanshi Ram raised the slogan of ‘Mile Mulayam Kanshi Ram – Hawa Mein Ur Gaye Jai Shri Ram’ (When Mulayam and Kanshi Ram get together, the Jai Shri Ram chant is a nought) to counter the Mandir movement of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. And now, the sworn enemies of the past have come together again to counter the BJP in the country.
This time, the slogan is – ‘Ek Bhi Vote Ghatne Na Paaye, Ek Bhi Vote Batne Na Paaye‘ (Not a single vote should be reduced, not a single vote should be divided). Also sharing the stage with Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav was Rashtriya Lok Dal President Chaudhary Ajit Singh. The aim of the Magathbandhan leaders was to bring Muslim, Dalit, Yadav and Jat voters of western Uttar Pradesh under the banner of the alliance. Voters of the four communities have a history of differences in this part of the country and the unity of this vote base can always turn the fortunes.
First to address the sea of supporters of the three parties was BSP supremo Mayawati. Addressing, what is being called a rally attended by over three lakh people, Mayawati launched a scathing attack on the BJP. She was also highly critical of the Congress. Mayawati ‘warned’ the gathering against falling into the trap of a three-cornered contest as the Congress had also fielded some candidates from some seats. She said that the Congress was too weary a party to counter the BJP and people should not waste their votes. She also criticised the NYAY scheme of Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
BSP supremo said, “Instead of six thousand rupees, we promise jobs in the government and private sectors. The BJP will lose this election because of its politics of hatred and its ‘chowkidar’ campaign. No matter how much hype it creates in the name of chowkidars, the BJP will not win as it is now exposed in its lies and unfulfilled promises to the people of the country.”
Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav too did not spare the Congress while attacking the BJP and termed both parties two sides of the same coin. He exhorted the crowds of a Maha-Parivartan (Big-Time Change) and said, “Congress does not want change in Uttar Pradesh and it just wants to form the government. The Congress’ strategy is the same as BJP’s.” Akhilesh also warned the crowds of a vote split and said, “Ek Bhi Vote Ghatne Na Paaye, Ek Bhi Vote Batne Na Paaye.”
Rashtriya Lok Dal president Chaudhary Ajit Singh was also critical of the BJP and said, “It is the first time in the history of the country that judges of the Supreme Court had to come out in the open to hold a press conference against the government. The BJP government is killing institutions by misusing the CBI, the ED and the Income Tax for its political muscle flexing.” He said this was the time for decisive voting as BJP leaders had said on record that there would be no elections till 2050 if Narendra Modi comes to power again.
A large number of activists of the Bhim Army led by Chandrashekhar Azad Ravan were seen at the rally. Though Mayawati had earlier labelled Ravan as an agent of the BJP, the Bhim Army supporters clearly stated that they were in attendance on the instructions of Chandrashekhar Azad and to support the gathbandhan and follow all what BSP Supremo Mayawati said.
The first rally of the mahagathbandhan of Uttar Pradesh is being seen as a test case from Deoband in Saharanpur, which is known for Darul Uloom, one of the biggest learning centres of the Muslims. The town and adjacent areas have a substantial Muslim, Dalit and Jat population.
Eight parliamentary constituencies including Sararanpur, Gautam Budh Nagar, Ghaziabad, Meerut, Baghpat, Kairana, Bijnore, and Muzaffarnagar go to polls on April 11.
The Dalit–Muslim–Yadav combine is indeed a force to reckon with in Uttar Pradesh. Data from the 2014 general elections shows that even during the Modi wave in the country, there were 62 of the 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh, where the combined vote share of the SP and the BSP was more than that polled by the BJP. The infusion of Jat votes of western Uttar Pradesh to this vote bank will add an edge to this alliance.
The three leaders of the magagathbandhan – Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav and Chaudhary Ajit Singh – will now be holding joint rallies in Badaun, Agra, Mainpuri, Rampur, Firozabad, Kannauj, Faizabad, Azamgarh, Gorakhpur and Varanasi as the electioneering progresses.
Uttar Pradesh sends the most members to parliament – 80. As per stats, the country had the most number of prime ministers from UP. The state, hence, is also deemed the path to the throne in Delhi.
(The writer is senior editor, politics, with Business Television India)