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Out in the cold, INLD-BSP reunite

Ranjeet Jamwal | Chandigarh |

Amid efforts to form an anti-Bhartiya Janata Party alliance across the country before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections,  Haryana’s main Opposition party Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) has succeeded in forming an alliance in the state with Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) well ahead of the general elections.

Announcing the alliance for Lok Sabha and Assembly polls (due in October) at a joint Press conference in Chandigarh, INLD leader Abhay Singh Chautala and BSP’s Haryana in-charge  Meghraj Singh said it was an alliance of Dalits, backward classes and farmers, along with the labour class  to make the state free of the BJP (“BJP-mukt”).

Both the parties have announced that the seat-sharing arrangement will be finalised once the Lok Sabha polls are declared.

Former alliance partners, the INLD-BSP have come together again after a gap of 20 years. Back in 1998, INLD and BSP had an alliance for the Lok Sabha polls.  While the INLD fought seven of the 10 Lok Sabha seats, the BSP contested three seats.

The alliance managed to win five seats with the INLD winning four seats (Sirsa, Hisar, Kurukshetra and Sonepat)  and the BSP making its maiden entry in the Lok Sabha from Haryana by winning the Ambala seat. The INLD lost the Rohtak and Bhiwani seats by a narrow margin.

At that time the Bansi Lal-led Haryana Vikas Party and the BJP won one seat each, while the Congress won the remaining three seats. However, despite both parties gaining from it, the INLD-BSP alliance didn’t last beyond the Lok Sabha polls.

Since then, while the INLD has lost the past three Assembly polls and is out of power for 13 years now, the BSP has not managed to win more than one seat in various Assembly polls in the past 27 years of its existence in Haryana.

For now, the coming together of INLD-BSP augurs well for both the parties.  While Jats, who form 25 per cent of Haryana’s total population, remain the INLD’s main support base, scheduled castes, who are 20 per cent of state’s population, remain the BSP’s core vote bank.

Political observers say if both INLD and BSP hold on to their respective vote share, they can post a serious challenge to the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress by getting votes transferred to  each others’ candidates.

On an average, the BSP has managed a vote share of about six per cent in Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in the state.  But the party managed to spring a surprise in 2009 by polling 16 per cent votes.

While the INLD polled 24.43 per cent votes in 2014 Lok Sabha polls and won two seats, the BSP polled 4.60 per cent votes in the state.  In the 2014 Assembly polls, the BSP polled 4.37 per cent votes and won one seat while the INLD polled won 19 seats by polling 24.11 per cent votes. As both parties have held on to their respective vote share despite being in Opposition, the coming together of INLD-BSP could help in boosting the chances of giving a good fight to both BJP and Congress through a seat-sharing arrangement for Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.

The BSP has its influence in Yamunanagar, Ambala, Panchkula, Kurukshetra, Karnal, Panipat, Sonepat, Faridabad and Palwal districts. Most of these districts share their border with adjoining Uttar Pradesh which is BSP’s main stronghold.

As the BJP and the Congress are likely to go it alone in the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, both the parties have termed  the INLD-BSP alliance opportunistic.

Describing the INLD-BSP alliance as a mismatch, BJP leader and Union Steel Minister Birender Singh said that history has witnessed the two parties striking an alliance earlier also, but it could not succeed and fell victim to their respective egos. The alliance struck by the two parties now will also meet the same fate, he said. Since the vote bank of INLD and BSP cannot be mutually transferred, the alliance was doomed to failure, he added.

Haryana BJP leaders and ministers also described the INLD-BSP alliance as a marriage of convenience entered into just to grab power in the state which is doomed to fail.

Haryana Congress chief Ashok Tanwar said the INLD-BSP  alliance was pure opportunism. He said both are spent forces as the INLD has lost ground in Haryana as indicated by three consecutive Assembly poll defeats and the BSP has been rejected in Uttar Pradesh in two Assembly polls.

The efforts for the INLD-BSP alliance began in January when Abhay Singh Chautala had met BSP supremo Mayawati on her birthday.  Now the two parties are citing their close ties from the past for the alliance. Chautala said BSP founder, the late Kanshi Ram and Tau Devi Lal (former deputy Prime Minister who formed the INLD) had close relations.

The INLD expressed its willingness to join an anti-BJP and anti-Congress alliance under the leadership of BSP supremo Mayawati. Chautala said the alliance had agreed upon broad contours and it was decided to project Mayawati as the prime ministerial candidate. He claimed that with the INLD and BSP coming together, the foundation had been laid for the Third Front in the country.