Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party has formed an alliance with former chief minister Ajit Jogi’s party for the Chhattisgarh assembly elections later this year, forcing a triangular contest for the first time in the history of the tribal state.
Mayawati’s decision is seen as a message to the Congress, which has been in talks with the BSP for a tie-up in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, that it had options other than the Congress if it was not given a respectable number of seats to contest.
It is a point that Mayawati underlined on Thursday as well when she counted the respectable number of seats for the BSP as one of the reasons why she had teamed up with Ajit Jogi’s Janta Congress Chhattisgarh.
According to the seat sharing formula agreed by the two leaders, the BSP will field 35 candidates and Ajit Jogi’s party, the remaining 55 seats.
The BSP’s talks with the Congress had fallen through in Chhattisgarh reportedly because the Congress was unwilling to concede more than seven to nine seats. Chhattisgarh assembly has 90 seats.
At a briefing to announce her brand-new alliance, Mayawati named Ajit Jogi as the coalition’s presumptive chief minister.
For Chhattisgarh that has seen a bi-polar fight between the BJP and the Congress and governments are decided by wafer-thin margins, Mayawati’s decision to force a triangular contest is seen as a setback for the Congress.
In the last assembly election, the difference between the votes polled by the BJP and the Congress was less than 98,000 votes.
The BSP fielded candidates in all 90 assembly segments in 2013, won 1 seat and polled 558,000 votes with a share of 4.4%.
But there were 12 seats where its candidates polled more than 10 per cent vote share. In five of these, they had polled over 20 per cent.
Jogi has been trying to turn the Chhattisgarh polls into a triangular fight, but his party is an untested entity in the state. The former Congress veteran founded his party in 2016 along with his son after being expelled from the Congress.
The new alliance is also seen as part of Mayawati’s 2019 plan where she wants to expand her party’s reach beyond Uttar Pradesh. She already has an alliance with Janata Dal (Secular) in Karnataka and Indian National Lok Dal in Haryana.