Negotiations between the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Congress regarding seat-sharing for the upcoming 2024 national polls in Uttar Pradesh are progressing, though the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) could pose a challenge to the unity of the Opposition alliance. Both parties have initiated separate mobilization campaigns in the state, which holds significant political weight with 80 parliamentary seats.
During the 18-day ‘Uttar Pradesh Jodo Yatra,’ State Congress chief Ajay Rai covered 16 Lok Sabha seats across 11 districts, while SP chief Akhilesh Yadav has been actively conducting rallies and announcing candidates based on worker demands.
While the SP-Congress seat-sharing discussions are anticipated to yield positive results, challenges may emerge as both parties negotiate over specific Lok Sabha seats. In the 2017 assembly elections, the SP and Congress formed an alliance, but campaigned separately, resulting in the BJP’s victory.
The Congress, despite a meager 2.33% vote share in the 2022 assembly polls, believes that the political landscape has shifted, presenting it as a national force capable of countering the BJP. However, the party has limited bargaining power compared to the SP, which garnered 32.06% of the votes in the same elections.
Potential complications may arise if the Congress insists on including the BSP, a rival to the SP, in the alliance. The BSP’s influence has declined since its 2019 alliance with the SP, winning only one seat in the 2022 assembly elections. The BSP’s reluctance to join the INDIA bloc without the SP’s participation raises concerns for a smooth collaboration.
Supporters of including the BSP argue that its presence would strengthen the Opposition, especially among Muslim voters. However, there are concerns that this consolidation might trigger a counterproductive Hindu consolidation in favor of the BJP, particularly post the Ram Temple opening.
The Congress’s recent announcement of Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra’ has created further rifts in the Opposition unity. Experts suggest that a collective show of strength during the yatra and a unified vision document are crucial for the INDIA bloc’s success.
The BJP’s strong position in Uttar Pradesh, winning 255 out of 403 seats in 2022, underscores the significance of the state in determining the ruling party’s fate. The Congress’s eagerness to include the BSP in the alliance stems from a desire to consolidate votes against the BJP, considering their combined vote share in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls was 45%.
The inclusion of the BSP is viewed as essential for attracting its core Dalit supporters, and Mayawati’s strong candidates in Muslim-majority constituencies could further strengthen the Opposition. However, the SP’s reservations, fueled by past alliance failures and credibility concerns about Mayawati, could impede the smooth inclusion of the BSP in the INDIA bloc.
Akhilesh Yadav, citing credibility issues, may resist Mayawati’s inclusion, and other INDIA bloc members, such as Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, may oppose compromising the alliance for the BSP. The delicate balance of communal and caste dynamics adds complexity to the ongoing seat-sharing discussions among the Opposition parties in Uttar Pradesh.