Lucknow: Even on day one, when Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati shook hands with Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav, it was amply evident that the marriage of convenience was not here to stay for long.
Yet it could be somewhat naive to rule out a Bharatiya Janata Party (read: Narendra Modi) hand behind the parting of ways. Barely a fortnight before the Lok Sabha results, when the Central Bureau of Investigation suddenly chose to give Mulayam Singh Yadav, his son Akhilesh and daughter-in-law Dimple a clean chit in the much talked about “disproportionate assets case” pending for years against the entire Yadav clan, it gave Mayawati reason to wonder what was happening.
Similar cases were pending against the BSP supremo too and the country’s premier investigation agency has been merrily allowed to keep its sword dangling over her neck for years. Conspiracy theorists suspect that the government’s discriminatory attitude gave her reason to harbour a grudge. So if you find that in due course her cases too start getting closed by the investigators, be assured that a split with Akhilesh is the price she was paying for the reprieve.
After all, the accord between two long-time sworn political foes was signed on the foundations of mistrust, suspicion and above all desperation for survival. And what seemed to make the bonds even more fragile was the short span of time that was at hand to cement such a relationship.
Thus there was simply not enough time for the message to percolate down to the grassroots level to facilitate joint efforts by the workers of the two parties. It is also said that both Mayawati and Akhilesh became overconfident and therefore failed to work hard enough put in the desired effort to ensure the easy inter-transfer of votes.
Sycophants on both sides were busy showing dreams of the future to both leaders. Mayawati began to re-nurture her dreams of becoming prime minister in the event of a hung parliament, which the ‘darbaris’ on both sides promptly predicted. Akhilesh was led to believe that with the same caste combination yielding a political harvest at the next state assembly election, he would don the mantle of Uttar Pradesh chief minister yet again in 2022. Mayawati is understood to have convinced Akhilesh that there was no way that their combined caste arithmetic would not work.
However, those who have observed Mayawati over the decades in politics knew that the real test of the longevity of the alliance would come with the outcome of the 2019 Lok Sabha election. It was also a foregone conclusion that Akhilesh would be at the receiving end if the alliance failed to accrue the political dividends the two leaders had anticipated.
What gave a boost to the idea of a full-fledged alliance was the euphoria on account of an unexpected victory at three simultaneous by-elections to the Lok Sabha and one state assembly seat in Uttar Pradesh in 2018. Soon, the smallest of the partners – Rashtriya Lok Dal – also pitched in to give shape to a ‘mahagathbandhan’.
And there you are. While claiming the she was still keeping all doors open, Mayawati left no stone unturned to run down the SP chief. She not only questioned Akhilesh’s leadership qualities but also his organisational skills, which implies how poorly she rates him as a political strategist.
“Don’t take this as a break up,” Mayawati insisted at her press conference on Tuesday. “Later, if we find that the SP chief has succeeded in improving things within his party, we will join hands again to work together. But if he doesn’t succeed, it will be good for us to work separately. That is why we have decided to go to the forthcoming 11 by-elections in UP on our own.”
Interestingly, the BSP supremo made it a point to emphasise that she would continue to have good personal relations with Akhilesh. “However, I cannot ignore the result of the Lok Sabha elections, which clearly reflect the fact that Akhilesh was unable to have control over his party’s core vote and has compelled us to take this decision,” she said.
Such statements, coming less than a fortnight after the Lok Sabha poll results, are no surprise given her track record of dumping political partners – the BJP three times and the SP once over the past 2.5 decades. The only difference is that unlike the past, when she would blast her abandoned political ally left, right and centre, she has restrained herself from hitting out at Akhilesh. By her own standards, she has been rather mild in her observations. Perhaps she was waiting for Akhilesh to react sharply. And the fact that Akhilesh chose to refrain from any kind of provocation has kept her restrained as well.
At the end of the day, whether her decision to walk away from the gathbandhan is tactical or strategic, her critics in the SP are likely to see Mayawati’s announcement as a manifestation of her “use and throw” policy. After all, the alliance with Akhilesh came in handy for her to win 10 Lok Sabha seats. In 2014, despite a reasonable vote share in the state, the BSP had failed to win a single seat.
Perhaps she felt that Akhilesh was too much of a political novice to be of any use to her party in the years ahead. So it was time for her to call it a day. The only reason she has left the doors open for a future realignment is to test the waters in the forthcoming by-elections.
It may be sheer coincidence but the fact remains that 24 years ago, Mayawati had ditched Akhilesh’s father Mulayam Singh Yadav, whose government the BSP was supporting in 1994-95. Then too, it was the month of June (2), when Mulayam was holding a meeting of his MLAs in a Lucknow hotel and Mayawati’s sudden announcement to withdraw support to his government came as a bolt from the blue. History repeated itself on June 3 this time. Akhilesh was holding a meeting of his party cadre in Azamgarh when Mayawati declared that she was parting ways with SP.