In what could be a blow to the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) plan of forming a grand Opposition alliance against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in next year’s Lok Sabha elections, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is likely to join hands with the Republican Party of India (RPI) in Maharashtra. After a meeting between its leaders on Saturday, BSP and RPI have agreed to “explore possibilities for forging an alliance”.
The Mayawati-led party has already announced that it would not have any alliance with the Congress in the Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan Assembly elections slated in November and December.
The likelihood of an alliance between Mayawati and RPI chief Rajendra Gawai assumes more significance given that Prakash Ambedkar’s Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh and Asaddudin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen will tie-up in Maharashtra for Lok Sabha polls.
Gawai met Suresh Sakhare, BSP’s state unit president, and Pramod Raina, BSP’s Maharashtra in-charge, on Saturday. The RPI chief is also likely to meet Mayawati in Lucknow soon to discuss seat-sharing and other modalities for the alliance.
“We [BSP and RPI] are exploring possibilities of coming together for the Lok Sabha polls. We had initial level talks in which I have proposed to contest in 10 Lok Sabha constituencies. The proposal will be presented before the BSP chief,” Gawai said.
However, Gawai clarified that he has kept his “options open” and is not just in talks with BSP. “This doesn’t mean we have decided not to forge alliance with Congress and NCP. We have kept all our options open. As RPI chief, I am in talks with both sides — Congress-NCP and BSP.”
The BSP, on the other hand, was cautious and Sakhare denied meeting Gawai. When asked about allying with CongressNCP, Sakhare said, “I am just a BSP worker. The decision has to be taken by the BSP chief.”
The RPI-BSP combine may attract significant number of Dalit voters, especially in Vidarbha region. BSP has a sizeable vote bank in all 10 Lok Sabha constituencies in 11 districts of the region. In 2014, BSP had polled over 90,000 votes in four constituencies, while on four seats, they had polled around 50,000 votes.
Gawai, too, has a significant presence in Amravati. In 2009, he had 2.52 lakh votes, but in 2014, he could poll only 56,000 votes.
To counter the ruling BJP, the Congress and NCP have declared to forge a pre-poll alliance in 2019. They are making joint efforts to form a mega alliance by getting smaller parties into the fold. State Congress president Ashok Chavan seemed hopeful and said they don’t want division of secular votes and were trying to bring all the secular parties on board. “We believe that RPI-Gawai will join us for the polls…,” he said.