After facing a humiliating drubbing in the recent Lok Sabha elections, the Mahagathbandhan, an alliance between the two ideologically divergent parties Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, is now falling apart. The experiment failed because the alliance partners could not ensure mutual transfer of their perceived vote banks. BSP supremo Mayawati was the first to hint at ending the alliance after blaming Akhilesh Yadav’s SP for the poor show at the hustings. The two parties will now contest the coming byelections in Uttar Pradesh on their own. The collapse of the Mahagathbandhan experiment shows how the caste arithmetic is not the surest way to win the confidence of voters. The UP verdict turned out to be more about chemistry than arithmetic as the BJP turned the caste calculations upside down and bagged 62 seats while the BSP and the SP had to be content with 10 and 5 LS seats respectively. The poll-eve alliance was touted as an invincible force with a combined vote bank of Yadavs, Muslims and Dalits but the myth of vote transfer has now been busted. The lazy perceptions about caste-based voting went for a toss. The UP result proved that a mere coming together of leaders of disparate political groupings is no guarantee for vote transfer at the ground level. The SP and the BSP have a long history of mutual animosity and rancour and the only reason for their election-eve friendship was to keep the BJP at bay. Alliance politics often works on an over-simplistic assumption of vote transfer.
A mechanical extrapolation of vote share in the previous election is calculated and the statistic is then used to ascertain which partner has an upper hand. This reflects a flawed understanding of the voter behaviour and ignorance of the changing political dynamics. The UP verdict also holds a larger message for the cause of the opposition unity. It is high time opposition parties realised that their coming together merely on a staple diet of anti-Modi rhetoric, without offering any alternative policy agenda, will not work. The non-BJP political formation, whether at the State or the national level, needs to re-imagine and re-invent itself to stay in contention. The alternative force cannot just be a compilation of parties but should reflect an alternative policy framework, a common minimum programme and an alternative approach to governance. In the just-concluded elections, the projected alliance arithmetic did not add up in UP, Karnataka and Jharkhand. Leaders who rely exclusively on vote transfer tend to ignore the impact of ground-level chemistry. Ground level workers from two different parties, who have been adversaries for years, cannot be expected to suddenly start working together under the alliance tag.