Suffering may well be the route to success. Certainly the Bharatiya Janata Party must be reciting a similar motto in order to keep afloat the rocky coalition with the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh. It is significant that the most populated state in the country has little time for the two chief “national” parties, the Congress and the BJP. Perhaps its voting pattern expresses the wish of electorates in other states too. A strong regional party is now the preferred alternative. The South had shown this trend earlier, but the historical demands there were different. The fun and games in UP have their source in the fact that the national parties desperately need this state to ensure dominance at the Centre. It is no wonder, therefore, that the BJP high command is now at its meekest with the BSP chief minister and its coalition partner, Ms Mayavati. The coalition must last until the 2004 assembly elections, or the BJP in UP might as well start walking back to the pavilion now. If the Samajwadi Party and the Congress, spitting mutual venom till the other day, can start directing friendly glances at each other in the hope of gaining UP, the BJP, which is already in government in Ms Mayavati’s train, can hardly be blamed for trying to conciliate the chief minister.
Even without the BSP complication, it was not a happy party unit in UP. Too many strong leaders, too many vote banks, too many rivalries, too many stakes. The central leadership of the BJP is not having an easy time calming its UP unit and persuading it to persist with the coalition at the same time. Mr Rajnath Singh, the former chief minister who objected loudest to a coalition with the BSP, had to be left out of a crucial meeting because the other important leaders hostile to Ms Mayavati — Mr Vinay Katiyar, Mr Lalji Tandon and Mr Kalraj Mishra — do not like Mr Singh. Also, they could be expected to see reason from the high command’s point of view. As the BJP busied itself in settling its own house and appeasing its partner, Ms Mayavati tranquilly stuck to her guns. Far from relenting on the Raja Bhaiyya case, she will not even talk about coordination committees and suchlike. She has condescended to meet Messrs Katiyar, Tandon and Mishra every fortnight, but has not promised any change in her high-handed style of functioning. Even the “friendly” byelection contest between the BJP and BSP in two seats will go ahead as planned. Ms Mayavati knows a good time when she is in one. To be seen to lead the BJP by the nose can only do her good in the eyes of her voters — and in the eyes of other parties’ voters as well. This is a chance she will not let go of.