Lucknow, Feb 16: The forthcoming election in Uttar Pradesh is reminiscent of the 1993 poll battle, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was the centrifugal political force in the state. Riding on the wave of Ram Janmabhoomi movement, BJP was the favourite to win the elections. But an unlikely alliance thwarted the saffron forces from winning the high-stake electoral war.

Precursor to SP-BSP alliance

Waves of Mandal and Mandir politics gripped Uttar Pradesh during the era of late ’80s and ’90s. After Mulayam Singh Yadav rose to power in 1989 playing the OBC card, it was the BJP which successfully blurred the lines of caste, and united voters on Hindutva poll plank.

The Ramjanmabhoomi movement was skillfully turned into an electoral issue, allowing the saffron party to win the UP assembly elections of ’91. Kalyan Singh became the chief minister as BJP won a comfortable majority of 221 seats.

Post BJP’s victory, the caste-centric leaders of Uttar Pradesh contemplated to unite, in order to check the rise of ‘right-wing’ forces. All eyes were fixed on Mulayam and Kanshiram, the respective patriarchs of Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

‘Mile Mulayam Kanshiram, hawa mein ud gaye Jai Shree Ram’

The slogan was first coined by journalist-turned-politician Khadim Abbas, way before BSP and SP entered into a coalition. Abbas, an associate of Kanshiram, had observed that grassroot supporters of both the parties wanted their leaders to join hands and combat the ‘communal’ forces in Uttar Pradesh.

Abbas first raised this slogan at a public meeting in Mainpuri in 1991. During the Lok Sabha by-elections, held shortly after assembly polls which BJP won, Mulayam extended backchannel support to Kanshiram. The then BSP supremo was recommended by Mulayam to contest from the latter’s bastion Etawah.

Kanshiram, who was struggling to reach the Parliament, succeeded in wresting the seat by bagging 1,44,290 votes. This was the first major defeat of BJP in the ‘Mandir politics’ era, with its strong leader – Lal Singh Verma losing against Kanshiram. Verma had garnered 1,21,824 votes.

1993: SP-BSP form pre-poll alliance

Following the Babri Masjid demolition in December 1992, the communal polarisation further intensified in UP. BJP aimed to reap maximum benefits from the growing frenzy among the electorate. The mosque on disputed site was demolished on December 6 by kar sevaks, despite Kalyan Singh assuring the Supreme Court of completing protection of Babri Masjid. On the next day, Singh was compelled to resign. Centre, subsequently dissolved the Uttar Pradesh assembly.

Moving into the elections in early 1993, BJP was confident of victory. Communal passions were charged up across the country, with the far-right forces dominating the political discourse. The nationwide riots had further polarised the voters on lines of religion.

At this peak of Ram Mandir movement, Mulayam and Kanshiram joined hands to take on BJP. As per the pre-poll understanding, Samajwadi Party contested on 267 seats, whereas, the BJP fought on 156, out of the 425 member assembly.

The Mulayam-Kanshiram alliance struck chord with a major section of the UP electorate. Although Ram Janmbhoomi was the biggest issue moving into the polls, BJP met a rude shock as the SP-BSP alliance defeated them.

  • Results of 1993 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections
PartySeats Won
Bharatiya Janata Party177
Janata Dal27
Bahujan Samaj Party67
Samajwadi Party109

Although BJP emerged as the single largest party, BSP, SP, Janata Dal, along with few smaller parties formed the government in Uttar Pradesh. Mulayam was chosen as the chief minister.

However, the SP-BSP coalition could not last long, owing to growing political hostility between Mulayam and BSP’s rising star Mayawati. The rivalry which led to the breakup of SP-BSP in 1995, continued to dominate the state’s political discourse for the next two decades.

Fast forward 2017: What if Akhilesh and Mayawati had taken cue from Mulayam and Kanshiram

After playing the role of second runner-up in Uttar Pradesh over the past 14 years, BJP now eyes the opportunity to end its vanvaas in Uttar Pradesh. The Narendra Modi wave of 2014 allowed the saffron party to make a dominant resurgence in the state.  After winning 71 out of the 80 Lok Sabha seats from UP, BJP made a firm resolve to capture the legislative assembly. To thwart the BJP from repeating the success of 2014 in 2017, talks grew within the political circles whether SP and BSP would join hands again.

The possibility of the ‘SP-BSP grand alliance’ was nipped off right at the bud, when Mayawati discarded Akhilesh Yadav’s veiled olive branch. Akhilesh’s half-hearted appeal to ‘bua’ Mayawati failed to amuse the latter. The Dalit icon rejected the possibilities of alliance, saying her priority is to eliminate the corruption and goonda raj of Samajwadi Party, as well as keeping the communalism of BJP at bay.

Had Mayawati aligned with Akhilesh, BJP would had met the same fate as it suffered in 2015 Bihar assembly elections, pollsters opine. To support their claim, political pundits share data from 2014.

Political PartyVote %
Bharatiya Janata Party42.30
Samajwadi Party22.20
Bahujan Samaj Party19.60
Indian National Congress7.50

When the Modi wave was at its peak, BJP secured 42 per cent vote share in UP. But the combined total of SP and BSP vote share in 2014 equals up to 42 per cent.

Considering the amount of disillusionment against Modi, along with the reclamation of lost grounds by Akhilesh and Mayawati over past two and a half years, a pre-poll tie-up between SP and BSP would had diminished the prospects of BJP. To conclude with the jargons of ’90s political era, the ‘mandals’ (backwards) could had wiped away the ‘kamandals’ (reactionary upper-castes).