The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ally in UP set to play spoiler in MP

New Delhi, June 25: The BJP and the Bahujan Samaj Party may be allies in Uttar Pradesh, but in Madhya Pradesh — where they will fight the Assembly polls independently — Mayavati’s party is giving the BJP anxious moments.

The panic button was pressed following pre-poll surveys conducted by the BJP, said party sources. The surveys indicated a 12 per cent voter following for the BSP across the Bhind region, bordering Uttar Pradesh, which includes Satna, Rewa and Gwalior and Malwa, comprising Bhopal, Indore, Ujjain and Vidisha.

The sources maintained that while this percentage might not translate into a corresponding number of seats, they conceded that the BSP would eat into the BJP’s votes. “And in a state where a one per cent swing can make the difference between victory and defeat, the BSP is a factor we cannot ignore.”

The sources, however, stressed that as of now, “the question of a pre-poll alliance does not arise”.

The logic was that any partnership and the give-and-take element involved in terms of seats might weaken the BJP’s image as a party “set to give the Congress a drubbing”.

“An alliance would give the impression that we are not strong enough to take the Congress on our own and need a crutch. Moreover, with all the problems we have in Uttar Pradesh, our cadre will not take kindly to the BSP in Madhya Pradesh,” the sources added.

Although the BSP is said to have a base among the more backward castes of Bhind, like the Kachis, Shakhyas, Mallahs and Nais, the BJP claimed that Uma Bharti’s projection as chief minister could blunt this factor as she was also a backward caste Lodhi from Tikamgarh in the same region.

“More than seats, the BSP has an influence on the thinking of Dalits and backward castes. But the Bhind region has always been known for its fight against social inequality and this background will help the BJP with Uma at the centre stage,” said the sources.

The BSP’s main drawback, they said, was the lack of a leader who could rally around support. If anything, the BSP could give the Congress a hard time in the Malwa region, where the two share a common vote base, the sources pointed out.

Chief minister Digvijay Singh’s pro-Dalit agenda — enshrined in a charter of demands he had placed a couple of years ago which spoke, among other things, of reservation in the private sector — came unstuck, according to the BJP. “Digvijay is a Thakur and they continue to oppress Dalits in most places. That is why his Dalit agenda sounds so hollow,” they said.

But the BJP would be cautious not to overdo Uma’s backward caste antecedents so as not to alienate the upper castes, said sources. “Her being an OBC will be a plus point in some regions, but nowhere will it be a minus point because she is also the symbol of Hindutva and Ayodhya, which the upper castes swear by.”

Like Gujarat’s Narendra Modi, Uma has been careful to keep the RSS-VHP-Bajrang Dal in good humour by raking up issues like the Bhojshala dispute, cow-slaughter ban and religious conversions.

Sources close to the sadhvi said: “Uma is much more confident of the RSS-VHP’s support than the BJP’s.”

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