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An opportunist alliance in Lucknow

The BJP-BSP alliance was forged to sustain the NDA government at the centre. The BJP is apparently unsure of the continued support of some allies to the government and it wanted fresh partners for its survival, says PM Damodaran

Lucknow: The Bahujan Samaj forged alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1995 and 1997 to form governments in Uttar Pradesh. The first time it formed the government on its own with the outside support from the BJP and on the second occasion, the government was formed with the BJP and some splinter groups as partners in it. Though both the governments were short-lived, the BSP came out unscathed on its secular credentials. But this may not be the case now. Unlike on the last two occasions, the alliance is forged on certain agenda now and in the eyes of the minority community this has put the BSP a firm camp follower of the BJP. Due to this reason, the BSP may find it difficult to retain its base among the Muslims, who form its vote base along with the dalits.

The minority community is already up in arms against the 14 BSP and two Rashtriya Lok Dal Muslim legislators. The prominent Muslim clerics and leaders have already appealed to the community to socially boycott these legislators. (Among the Muslim legislators, Mr. Kokab Hamid of the RLD is also a minister in the Mayawati government). Terming these Muslim legislators as ghaddars (traitors), these clerics and Muslim leaders have appealed to the ulema to issue edicts and fatwas for their social boycott as they had betrayed the community. They wanted the ulema to ban the entry of these legislators into the mosques. (But no ulema have come out with any fatwa so far).

These Muslim leaders, who included prominent shia cleric Kalbe Jawwad and the President of the All India Muslim Forum, Mr. M.K. Sherwani, reminded the community that these legislators had sought votes in the last assembly elections in the state for the cause of secularism and once they got elected, they had joined hands with the communal BJP. Kalbe Jawwad significantly pointed out that Ms. Mayawati herself during the assembly election campaign had assured the All India Milli Council that the BSP would keep away from joining hands with the communal BJP.

The Chief Minister, Ms. Mayawati is apparently concerned over the social boycott threat of her party's legislators by the Muslim community. In her first press conference after the swearing-in ceremony, Ms. Mayawati made attempts to dispel apprehensions in the minds of the minority community and tried to reassure them that her government would work for the cause and welfare of the community despite the fact that her party had forged an alliance with the communal BJP to rule the state. She had particularly assured full protection to the religious places and institutions run by the Muslims.

But what had cast doubts on the sincerity the BSP was the party's stand on Gujarat issue during the debate in Parliament. The minority community considered the BSP's stand on Gujarat issue as blatant support to the BJP's anti-Muslim stand. On its part, the BJP had wanted a decision on coalition government in U.P. before the voting took place in the Lok Sabha on the Gujarat issue to get the support of the BSP as the party was unsure of support to the government from some National Democratic Alliance allies like the TDP, the DMK and others.

Moreover, unlike on the two previous occasions, the alliance between the BJP and the BSP this time was based on a certain agenda. When they joined hands in 1995 and 1997, the BSP had taken the stand that it was done merely to avert fresh elections in the state and to avoid the Samajwadi Party, their common enemy, from coming to power in the state. Ms. Mayawati had then no hesitation to state that her party had serious ideological differences. Now the BSP even refuses to talk about the ideological differences between the two parties!

On the part of the BJP, the alliance was forged to sustain the NDA government at the centre. The BJP is apparently unsure of the continued support of some allies to the government and it wanted fresh partners for its survival. The BSP filled the bill as it has 13 members in the Lok Sabha. The BJP is also unsure about the prospects of the support base of its candidate in the presidential elections scheduled to be held within the next couple of months. 

Additional support is required to push through its nominee in the presidential polls and the BSP's support is required in this regard.

Moreover, the BJP wants the alliance to contest the next Lok Sabha elections to be held in 2004 jointly to improve its prospects. 

With the BJP's base shrinking while the party is in power in three states only, its prospects in the next Lok Sabha polls largely depend on its performance in U.P. It knows it well that if contested alone in the next parliamentary elections in U.P., it may be disastrous to the party. So the BJP wants the alliance with the BSP to last till the next Lok Sabha elections and hopes to do well with the latter's support. But the minority community may spoil the prospects of the alliance in the polls as it may distance from the BSP affecting the latter's mass base.
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