Millennium Post

Poll alliance

Addressing a joint press conference, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Sunday called the tie-up between the Samajwadi Party and the Congress a "people's alliance". The two leaders were unanimous in their assertion that an alliance for the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly election is to stop the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh from spreading the "politics of anger". This was the first joint press meet by the two leaders since the Samajwadi Party and the Congress announced an alliance for the state elections. For nearly three decades, the Congress has remained politically insignificant. So why would the UP Chief Minister covet an alliance with the grand old party? In allying with the Congress, Akhilesh has sought to send a signal to the Muslim community that despite the current split in his party, they have a real secular alternative to the BJP among a whole host of parties seeking their vote. With 19 per cent of the population, Muslims in Uttar Pradesh constitute a significant segment of the electorate. Of course, research suggests that the Muslims do not necessarily vote en masse for a single party. But this has not stopped parties from seeking a significant share of the community vote. This is beyond cold arithmetic calculations, and more symbolic of the message Akhilesh aims to send to the community. Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party has given an incredible 97 tickets to Muslim candidates in a bid to carve out a Muslim-Dalit alliance. It's hard to tell how the Muslim vote will be split amongst the parties this time. Any potential BJP victory depends on how much the Muslim vote will be split among their opponents. Beyond the Muslim vote, Akhilesh wants to win over a small fraction of the loyal Congress vote, which is primarily made up of a segment of upper castes and Dalits that have not gone for the SP in the past. For the Congress, an alliance with the Akhilesh-led SP is essential for its survival in the state. As a pillion rider on Akhilesh's cycle, the Congress has settled for fewer seats. In a state, where it has been out of the corridors of power for 27 years, the party is seemingly happy just to regain a foothold. Despite making a lot of noise, their campaign has only just picked up some momentum. Finally, sidelined SP patriarch Mulayam Singh might end up playing spoilsport, notwithstanding his son's assurances that he remains the face of the party.
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