- Two of UP's biggest parties to fight upcoming national elections together
- Will contest 38 each of UP's 80 parliamentary seats, leave 2 for Congress
- Say they want to defeat BJP, see no benefit in tying up with Congress
Uttar Pradesh rivals turned partners-in-polls Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati on Saturday announced their long-anticipated alliance to take on the ruling BJP in the national election due by May, declaring that they would "rob Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah of their sleep". The Congress will not be a part of the alliance, they announced, saying there was no "real gain" from any tie up with Rahul Gandhi's party.
"There is not much benefit to us from allying with the Congress. We have decided that we will not tie up with a party like the Congress across the country where they can't transfer votes to us," said Mayawati, shutting the doors on the Congress weeks after reluctantly supporting it in Madhya Pradesh.
Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) will contest "50:50" or 38 seats each in Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 parliamentary constituencies and is key to power at the centre. Their only concession for the Congress is to spare the two seats -- Amethi, which is Congress president Rahul Gandhi's constituency, and Sonia Gandhi's seat Raebareli. Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav announced they were leaving two seats for "other parties" but didn't elaborate. Sources say talks with Ajit Singh's Rashtriya Lok Dal are stuck because it wants to contest four seats in western UP.
Nearly 25 years ago, the Samajwadi Party, then led by Akhilesh Yadav's father Mulayam Singh, and the BSP had an acrimonious falling out after their shaky coalition government in Uttar Pradesh crashed. The two parties parted as sworn enemies in 1995, after Samajwadi workers roughed up Mayawati at a guest house in Lucknow for pulling out of their coalition government.
"For the sake of the nation, we decided to rise above the Lucknow guest house incident and again come together," Mayawati stressed, a clarification aimed at PM Modi, who had at a recent rally in Agra scorned her for "forgetting" that episode while allying with the Samajwadi Party.
Akhilesh Yadav added emphatically: "I want to tell all my workers, any insult to Mayawatiji is a personal insult to me."
Last year, the two parties decided to team up for important bypolls that were prestige battles for the BJP, and found that together, they can be a colossal force.
After a successful dry run in three seats, including UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's Gorakhpur, the two former chief ministers - dubbed the bua-bhatija (aunt-nephew) combo, explored taking their alliance to the next level.
"We have defeated the BJP in bypolls by coming together in the last year. The Congress even lost its deposit. This made us realise that of the SP and BSP come together, we can win against the BJP," Mayawati said.
"This is not an alliance only to win the polls but to also represent the interests of the common people and Dalits, Muslims and other religious minorities," said the BSP chief.
Significantly, she also said this was a long-term relationship. "Ye lamba chalega (it will go long), even in the next Uttar Pradesh assembly election," said Mayawati.
She beamed as Akhilesh Yadav, taking a question on what he thought of Mayawati as prime ministerial candidate, said: "Uttar Pradesh has given us prime ministers in the past and we will be happy to see another Prime Minister from Uttar Pradesh again. You know who I will support."
In 2014, the BJP and its ally Apna Dal managed to win a whopping 73 of Uttar Pradesh's 80 parliamentary seats, while the Samajwadi party, BSP and Congress were pulverised.
Akhilesh Yadav's bid to retain power in Uttar Pradesh by joining hands with the Congress for the 2017 state polls also sank as the BJP came to power with a huge majority.
The Mayawati-Akhilesh alliance is a major headache for the BJP, especially after it lost three major states to the Congress in last month's election. The BJP stands to lose as many as 36 of the seats it won in 2014.
Officially, the BJP dissed the venture as a non-starter based on the need for survival.
The UP alliance was cheered by other opposition leaders. In Bihar, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav said: "BJP's defeat in UP and Bihar is certain now."