There are few states politically as unfortunate as the Uttar Pradesh of the past few years. Governance has become a sad joke, with earlier spells of president’s rule, then shared rule with one party at the helm for a fixed time, followed by coalition rule in which partners concentrate only on getting each other’s goat, and numerous other vicious antics that have nothing whatsoever to do with people’s welfare. The latest tension-ridden coalition, in which the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party are the major constituents, has been typically fractious and giddy. The chief minister, Ms Mayavati, has not endeared herself to the BJP by her high-handed style, while her deftness in attracting members of the legislative assembly from other parties to her support makes her a leader to reckon with. Dissidents abound in the coalition, both from among the BJP and the BSP, and now Mr Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal has walked out. Although Ms Mayavati’s hated rival, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, who feels he has been tricked out of forming the government this time, is demanding that Ms Mayavati prove her majority on the floor of the house, the BSP-BJP coalition is still a comfortable nine members in majority, even if the numbers are fast dwindling. Ms Mayavati may have to revert to her skilful method of alternately cajoling and threatening MLAs to cross over. Certainly, the threat of splitting the rebellious RLD has already been voiced.
Both the Congress and the Samajwadi Party feel that the iron is hot. With the RLD in tow, Ms Sonia Gandhi and Mr Yadav might actually manage to put together a convincing opposition, enough at least to challenge Ms Mayavati’s supremacy. Mr Kalyan Singh, alienated from the BJP and still breathing fire, might be only too happy to provide the help of his Rashtriya Kranti Party. One of the most unappealing aspects of politics in Uttar Pradesh is the factionalism within the larger parties themselves. Both the Congress and the BJP are shaky with intra-party power struggles among leaders who have some kind of following, either within the party or among the people. This makes horse-trading among MLAs not only an expected practice at uncertain times like these, but also a loudly and proudly discussed one. It is almost as if that is all that politics means. What is lost is development. And also the logic of the original divisions that fragmented the vote in the first place. The Dalit leader now joins hands with a saffron party, while Mr Yadav turns to the Congress with his treasury of backward classes votes. Obviously, there is nothing above arithmetic.