Leaving behind decades-old political rivalry, Uttar Pradesh's heavyweights Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati have joined forces for the birth of a formidable team that will give the "Modi-Shah combine sleepless nights" ahead of the national election.
The duo, known as bua-bhatija (aunt and nephew) in the state politics, had been discussing their association since last year. While making a formal announcement today, the younger partner in the alliance said that "insulting Mayawati ji is like insulting me".
Akhilesh Yadav's statement came days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi raked up the "Lucknow guest house" episode during a public meeting in Agra. He was referring to an attack on Mayawati in June 1995, after she had ended her ruling alliance with the Samajwadi Party.
A mob of unruly Samajwadi workers had entered a guesthouse in Lucknow where she was meeting her lawmakers and roughed her up forcing her to lock herself in a room. She was rescued by the BJP, which succeeded in ensuring there was little room for setting things right between the two UP allies.
"I want to tell all my workers, any insult to Mayawatiji is a personal insult to me," Akhilesh Yadav said.
Last week, PM Modi attacked the then alliance in the works and said that "for political gains, people are even forgetting that".
"For the sake of the nation, we decided to rise above the Lucknow guest house incident and again come together," Mayawati stressed.
While the Congress failed to make it to the alliance, the foes-turned-friends announced that of the 80 seats in the state, Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party led by Mayawati will contest 38 seats each in the Lok Sabha polls due in a few months. The rest have been left for the Congress -- Raebareli and Amethi -- and a regional ally of the SP-BSP team.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav told reporters that the foundation of the alliance was laid when the BJP conspired to defeat the BSP's Rajya Sabha nominee. The two leaders are ready to do anything to halt the BJP's rath (chariot), he said.
"Remember, I had said that I was ready to take two steps back to forge an alliance with the BSP," he said.The alliance between Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati cost the BJP a string of crucial Lok Sabha seats in bypolls last year -- starting with Gorakhpur, which voted against Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath after his five consecutive terms from the seat.
The collaboration between Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav for the upcoming national election has shaken the BJP, the BSP chief said.
She accused the BJP of using the CBI to investigate the sand mining that threatens to embroil the Samajwadi chief and blamed the ruling party for trying to sabotage the alliance.
"PM Modi is scared of the alliance. But they can't derail this gathbandhan," asserted Ms Mayawati.