Lucknow: The coming together of arch rivals BSP and SP to support the candidature of Meira Kumar as president could be a crucial step towards further consolidating anti-BJP forces in Uttar Pradesh, say political observers.
Struggling to regain lost ground after the near washout in the recent assembly elections with the BJP making deep inroads into their respective bastions, the SP and the BSP have found in the presidential election another opportunity to come on the same page.
Though their value of votes is unlikely to make either NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind win or bolster Kumar's prospects, their joint support for the opposition-backed candidate will drive home the message that forces opposed to the saffron party were coming together.
This, political observers feel, is likely to pave the way for other like-minded parties to join hands ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, for which the BJP hopes to bag all 80 seats in the state, seven more than it scored in 2014, along with its allies.
"This shows that the opposition is forced to come together as they are realising their strength is in unity... this is also preparation for 2019," said RJD's state unit president Ashok Singh.
"There is also pressure from the public who have started saying that all anti-BJP parties should come together on one platform," he added.
Only too aware of the drubbing they faced and the acute necessity for drastic steps to counter the saffron surge, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and BSP supremo Mayawati have already decided to share a platform at a rally organised by the Lalu Prasad-led RJD in Patna on August 27.
The thaw between the two could also prompt a repeat of a Bihar-like experiment in UP politics and subsequently at the national level with all parties opposed to the BJP aligning on one agenda.
"It is becoming clearer with every passing day that democracy is under siege and all those who want to see democracy survive and the Indian Constitution prevail will have to come together as the threat which is looming is much greater than the Emergency...," said Ramesh Dixit, political scientist and former head of the political science department of Lucknow University.
Referring to the dismal showing of all anti-BJP parties in the assembly polls, Dixit said, "No one can dispute that had they fought elections together, the results would have been different."
The SP and the BSP, it seemed, had parted ways for life after the State Guest House case of 1995 when Mayawati alleged that an attempt was made on her life. But with SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, who was at the helm of affairs then, now on the sidelines with son Akhilesh leading the party, it would be easier for Mayawati to build bridges.
The father and son, it is learnt, are also opposed to each other on the issue of the presidential election and this could also come help Mayawati soften her posture towards her adversary.
Interestingly, Akhilesh has almost always referred to Mayawati as "Bua" even though it had not gone down well with the BSP chief.
The SP and the BSP together make a formidable alliance with the consolidation of Dalit and backward votes which could effectively checkmate the BJP and both are aware that they need some strong ground to face the BJP challenge, say experts.
The BSP won only 19 seats in 2017 assembly in the 403- member House, down from 80 in 2012. This is its lowest tally since 1991, when the party won 12 seats. The SP won 47, its lowest tally since the party's inception in 1992.
The BJP cornered 40 per cent of the votes polled, a jaw-dropping increase of 25 per cent since last time, grabbing along with its NDA partners 325 seats.
As the BJP's unprecedented tally dwarfed the opposition, which has together been reduced to less than 75 seats, calls for an alliance between the SP and the BSP have grown louder.
Before the start of their hostility, the SP and the BSP had contested the 1993 UP Assembly elections together -- the BSP contested 164 seats and won 67 while the SP fought 256 seats and bagged 109.
The government was formed with Mulayam Singh as the chief minister. The relationship, however, turned sour and the BSP withdrew support. Mayawati went on to form the government with the help of the BJP in 1995.
But then, as they say, there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies either in politics....