NEW DELHI: The press conference by Bahujan Samaj party chief Mayawati and Samajwadi party leader Akhilesh Yadav was more telling than most.

From a ‘will she, won’t she’ speculative phase, politics in Uttar Pradesh moved into a decisive phase almost immediately.

It was apparent that the coming together of the two was more because of the efforts of the younger leader, who had made up his mind after the last elections---as he said so several times---to bring the two parties together and ensure each other a future by driving the BJP out of Uttar Pradesh. For this he held any number of meetings, fed the BSP leaders exaggerated ego, and ensured that despite her ego that has placed her in the category of unpredictable leaders, he managed to seal an alliance that could well change the picture in UP. And sat back at the press conference, allowing ‘senior’ Mayawati to grab centre stage, limiting his own intervention to support for her and the BSP.

Clearly Akhilesh Yadav has understood the insecurities dogging Mayawati ever since she came to power. And has handled this while sealing the alliance doing, as he himself admitted earlier, all that was required to pull it off.

Number crunching from the last general elections where a Modi-wave swept UP, it does seem that the BSP-SP alliance will change the saffron to green, red and blue. Preparing for precisely this possibility Yogi Adityanath has been hard at work to terrorise the populace, and divide it on communal lines with an aggressive agenda seeking to isolate the Muslims as the ‘other’, Unfortunately, such is the nature of the beast that the Dalits too got caught in the vice and even as the BJP sought to entice the larger SC population in the state, it seems to have lost out because of backlash to the arrest of leaders like Bhim Army’s Chandrashekhar Azad.

The result is that there is reported alienation of the Dalits from the BJP, hastened by the aggressiveness of the lumpen groups that largely consist of unemployed upper caste youth. Backwards such as the Yadav are also reported to have returned to the SP fold, having left in 2014 mesmerised by Narendra Modi’s promises of employment and a new future. As several older Yadav’s who maintained their loyalty to the SP had told this writer at the time, they were unable to stop the youth from deserting the party. And as one wizened old man said at the time, “they will learn for themselves and come back.” Prophetic if current indications are taken on board.

The most recent indication that the BSP-SP alliance can cut through Adityanath’s hectic communalisation of the state has come from the by-elections where the BJP came a cropper in two key parliamentary seats Gorakhpur and Phulpur. These were crucial for the party and the defeat cleared the writing on the wall, that the alliance of two sworn enemies could shake the BJP in its own citadels.

And most importantly, Adityanath’s aggressive communalism has not eaten into the economic demands of the voters who overthrew the BJP in the by elections on the economic and livelihood agenda. This is a major signal that could upset the BJP cart---Ram mandir or no mandir---in the coming elections in UP. As the encounters to terrify the Muslims and the Dalits, and the rank communalism reflected not just in violent action but also the speeches of the men in power, seems to be losing out to livelihood issues with the voter even in Adityanath’s bastion Gorakhpur, casting the ballot for the alliance over the BJP.

The consolidation of backward communities and castes thus, is a major step forward with the alliance appealing to all that is democratic in the Indian voter. As both Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav have said, the need is to move away from divisiveness towards unity and progress. A powerful call for a state that has still not been able to even step out onto the path of progress.

Both leaders will have to one campaign extensively to cut the continuing appeal of Narendra Modi in UP. He remains popular as a personality, and will no doubt carpet bomb the state in the run up to the polls. This along with the RSS and Adityanath will pose a formidable challenge with both leaders now required to work over time on consolidating and expanding their constituencies, but also in keeping workers united. A hint of this was apparent in Akhilesh Yadav’s warning to his workers that any attack on Mayawati by them would be seen by him as an attack on himself. Given the dissidence within, there will be an adverse reaction with the BJP expected to fan the flames. A major issue that the parties will have to deal with,

Also as both leaders said, it was imperative for the alliance to guard against rumours and lies, and ensure that voters were not swayed by these. This again requires levels of vigilance through alert organisations that both parties---in particular the SP---have. Despite the split the Samajwadi remains strong in the state, with a reach into the grassroots.

And this here explains the decision to leave out the Congress from the alliance. There are broadly three reasons why the party was not included. One, most importantly Mayawati’s reluctance to give up seats to the Congress. All the figures being mentioned were in the single digit variations, from two of Raebareli and Amethi to six. This was not acceptable to the Congress party. Mayawati’s opposition came from the fact that she also articulated at the press meet, that the Congress was not in a position to transfer any votes to the BSP or the SP. Instead it would only benefit from what she described as “our vote.” Akhilesh Yadav held his peace, and even when questioned refused to directly criticise or question the Congress party.

Mayawati is right in that the Congress party barely exists in real terms in the state having lost its three vote banks to the other parties over the years. Never a champion of the backwards that remained ignored in the state until the Mandal Commission brought them into the front seat, the Congress relied entirely on the Brahmin-Dalit-Muslim equation to bring itself to power. The Muslim moved to SP post Mandal, the Dalit got enamoured of the BSP, and the Brahmins have moved to the BJP. The Congress thus is over dependent on the personality of local candidates and their standing in the field to win the odd Lok Sabha seat. So essentially by leaving the party out the BSP-SP do not lose.

The argument is that the alliance loses gravitas without the Congress. But that in the context of UP that holds the key to the next Lok Sabha, is a small price to pay. Also by staying outside what is essentially a Dalit-Muslim-Backward alliance, the Congress party is expected to make a small dent in the upper caste votes in seats where it is alienated from the BJP. That too is a political ‘perhaps’ but even so according to senior leaders in the Opposition, the Congress might be a little more effective outside the alliance than within. That it will not win seats on its own is a given, with even Amethi coming under a question mark at this stage.

But the story is not over. And the talks continue even as seats are determined, and candidates finalised. Ajit Singh and the Rashtriya Lok Dal has to be accommodate. And if it works out with the Congress party as Akhilesh Yadav clearly hopes, there will be another announcement with the two main regional parties reducing their share of seats to part with about 10 to the other two. But this is an aside, as the main event of the crucial SP-BSP alliance has happened. And this alone has the potential to change the government in UP, that often runs as an euphemism for Delhi.