New Delhi: Prepping for the next round of assembly elections later this year, Congress leaders have reached out to Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party, or BSP, to explore the possibility of an alliance that the party hopes, would help them put a formidable front against the BJP, which has ruled Madhya Pradesh for 15 years.
The discussions were still in preliminary stages but the possibility that the two parties could end up working together in the assembly elections, considered the semi-finals for the 2019 elections, was "quite plausible", sources said.
The Congress outreach comes days after the party worked with the HD Deve Gowda's Janata Dal Secular after the Karnataka assembly elections to form the government in Karnataka.
For a party that was often seen as domineering by smaller parties, the decision to give HD Kumaraswamy the pole position has helped the Congress re-position itself. It was also as part of this determination to work around sticking points to come up with a durable arrangement that the Congress on Friday gave the finance portfolio to the JDS
The Congress is keen on an alliance with Mayawati, particularly in Madhya Pradesh, since the Dalit powerhouse of Uttar Pradesh has been averaging nearly 7 per cent of the vote for the last 20 years. If these votes were to be added to the Congress's 36 per cent vote share, the Congress thinks it would put the opposition within striking distance of blocking the BJP which secured 45 per cent votes.
This time, a Congress leader said, anti-incumbency against Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan would shave off a few percentage points from this vote share unless the opposition makes a huge mistake.
As a concept, sources told NDTV, Mayawati's BSP has been receptive to the Congress proposal and is keen on a larger alliance just not confined to Madhya Pradesh but even in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan where it has been getting nearly 5 per cent and 4 per cent vote share, respectively.
The Congress is not talking about seats just now but is ready to concede considerable space if the other party's candidate is expected to win the seat.
Sources said the Congress is open to the idea of extending the arrangement to Chhattisgarh but there are some leaders who resist the idea of a tie-up in Rajasthan. The nature, shape and spread of the alliance would be taken after taking in account the overall, big picture, a senior Congress leader said, without clarifying if the party was open to an arrangement with other non-BJP parties in Rajasthan.
Just yesterday, Jayant Chaudhary of the Rashtriya Lok Dal, had told NDTV that the Congress should involve regional parties in states such as Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh where the Congress is the principal opposition parties for best results. That remark was seen as a suggestion that his party, which counts the Jat community among its strongest supporters, could work with Congress in pockets of Rajasthan's Jat community.