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Party With No Lok Sabha Seats And Single-Digit Vote Share May Have Torpedoed Opposition Alliance

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A grand opposition alliance to challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2019 general election received a setback.

Bahujan Samaj Party Chief Mayawati announced an alliance with former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Ajit Jogi’s Janata Congress Chhattisgarh. She also decided to contest all 230 seats in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh. Both the states go to polls in December this year and will see a head-to-head fight between Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress.

“This is not something that has happened out of the blue,” said political watcher Sharat Pradhan. Mayawati’s position is part of a larger BJP plan to ensure that an opposition alliance does not form before the next elections, he said.

"The easiest way to get rid of the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ would be by ensuring Mayawati creates enough hurdles, which she has done." - Sharat Pradhan, Political Journalist

Mayawati’s BSP drew a blank in the last Lok Sabha elections. Her party has a 4 percent vote share in Chhattisgarh and 6 percent in Madhya Pradesh. But she is still a crucial ally, said Sanjay Kumar, professor at Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. The BSP’s votes largely come from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes that are concentrated in certain pockets, which puts the party in a strong position to win seats and also as a valuable ally.

Most importantly, Mayawati is a crucial player in the state of Uttar Pradesh that has 80 seats in the Lok Sabha. She allied with arch rival Samajwadi Party in bypoll elections, handing the BJP an embarrassing defeat.

"We should not see the BSP only as a powerful party in Uttar Pradesh. The BSP has a sizable 3 to 6 percent vote share in many states. So if the BSP were to form an alliance with the Congress, that would have helped in states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, and a few others." - Sanjay Kumar, Professor CSDS

Her alliance with Jogi, an estranged Congress leader, gives an advantage to the BJP, according to journalist R Jagannathan. The BJP has been in power in the state of Chhattisgarh for 15 years and a split in the opposition vote would give it a shot in the arm.

"In a lot of constituencies, the margins are very narrow and in that kind of a situation a third front makes a difference." - R Jagannathan, Editorial Director, Swarajya Magazine

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