Is Opposition’s ‘Mahagathbandhan’ a distant dream?

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The Congress plan to ouster BJP by forming a grand alliance with other state parties in the upcoming assembly elections has hit a rock as BSP leader Mayawati has decided to ally with the rebel Congress leader Ajit Jogi in Chhattisgarh, while deciding to contest all 230 seats in Madhya Pradesh. Both of the states are currently ruled by BJP.

In Maharashtra too, which is slated to conduct polls next year, the prospects of grand alliance seem bleak. Bharipa Bahujan Mahasagh headed by the Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar has made an outright refusal to have any ties with Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) which is said to be having talks with Congress to form a grand alliance against BJP. Instead, Ambedkar went on to form an alliance with Owaisi’s AIMIM.

The reason of Ambedkar’s refusal to ally with NCP is that he doubts NCP’s commitment to secularism. He has said that he can work with Congress but any tie-up with NCP is out of the question. Sharad Pawar has slammed Ambedkar and said that the party which has helped BJP must not teach NCP as to what secularism is.

The recent turn of events has left Congress worrisome.  One of the Congress’s leaders on condition of anonymity said, “We have repeatedly stated that we will not have any alliance with the Shiv Sena and the AIMIM, even though they are ranting against the BJP. These are not secular parties and we have no association with them. But BSP and BBM are key players in the grand alliance scheme of things and the way they have gone ahead with their own plans is worrying”, reported mint.

Although Ambedkar has not much of an influence except few pockets in Vidarbha, Congress does not want to lose its support.  It would get tough for Congress party to make negotiations with BBM as it does not want any association with AIMIM. In 2014 election BBM contested 70 seats out of 288, out of which it could only manage to win one seat while AIMIM contested 24 seats and won two. Even though BSP did not win any seat it garnered 2.25% of vote share.

But it won’t be easy for Congress to fight BSP in Madhya Pradesh as the party has considerable influence in the state. The Mint quoted a senior Congress leader as saying, “Mayawati will get a good chunk of BSP votes as well as the anti-BJP votes in Madhya Pradesh. That is why we were keen to tie up with the BSP, but she wanted at least 50 seats, which is way too big a compromise for us. Something could have been worked out if she had waited though”.

In 2013 elections, if it wouldn’t have been for BSP, Congress might have been able to win more seats as opposed to only 58. Although BSP won 4 seats out of 227 contested seats, it managed to gain a significant 6.29% of vote share. As the BSP is a representative of Dalits and SC-STs, it could be a strong contender for 35 constituencies in MP. While in Chattisgarh the alliance with Jogi’s Janta Congress, the BSP could have a strong influence on the SC-ST reserved seats.

The Congress feels that these decisions by Mayawati are signals regarding the pre-poll seat sharing discussion which could not be mutually agreed upon. A Congress leader said that these decisions by Mayawati put a hold on further talks of an alliance in 2019 polls as she had publically said that any decision for an alliance in 2019 will depend on the seat-sharing I the assembly polls. Seeing the recent developments, the Congress might have to face a rough patch ahead.

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