SAHARANPUR: It was an impressive show. The chemistry was right, the arguments worked and the audience was in the thousands bound, as Bahujan Samaj party leader Mayawati said, “to make Prime Minister Narendra Modi tearing mad.” After 25 years the first coalition rally targeting the voters of eight Lok Sabha constituencies in western Uttar Pradesh appeared to be a resounding success, with muslims, dalits, Jats coming together after a divisive five years to listen to the opposition leaders.

Aware of the voters watchful eye, the three leaders --Mayawati, Samajwadi party’s Akhilesh Yadav and Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh---did not put a foot wrong. They showed respect for each other, complimented their arguments, and spoke for all communities and sections. The rally came after Modi’s visit to the region, and tore into the BJP and the Prime Minister for reneging on promises, for dividing the people, for spewing hate, for creating joblessness, and for ignoring the farmers and their concerns.

The crowds were responsive and enthusiastic. And stayed to listen to all three leaders, responding to questions, cheering loudly at every attack on Modi and the BJP, and mention of a past belonging to B.R.Ambedkar, Ram Manohar Lohia and Charan Singh.

For perhaps the first time Akhilesh Yadav attacked the Congress that has fielded problematic candidates in western UP, urging the voters to remember that there was no difference between the policies of the Congress and the BJP. He urged the people not to let their votes to be divided, and to vote together for the mahagathbandhan that he assured them amidst cheers, “ is coming, the BJP is going”.

The numbers did not disappoint, and clearly the voters of this belt that includes the seats of Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Saharanpur and others, are interested in what the mahagathbandhan has on offer. The Jats, who had voted for the BJP in the last elections blindfolded, were responsive to the references to the kisan’s problems, the sugarcane arrears, the standing crop. The muslims listened carefully as all leaders spoke out against the politics of hate and divisiveness that has torn apart the western belt since 2013. The Dalits, also present in large numbers at the rally, remained mesmerised by Behenji although it remains to be seen whether the non-Jatavs have shifted support to the BSP this time around.

The Congress-BSP feud that appears to be in full play in western UP is working to the advantage of the BJP. For instance in Saharanpur, Congress candidate Imran Masood contested the last polls and came second, just a few vote share percent behind the winning BJP candidate. The coalition has fielded a Muslim candidate Haji Fazlur Rehman from this seat, and the obvious division between the muslims could favour the BJP yet again. If the entire opposition had come together in alliance this, like many others, would have been a walk over seat.

Similarly the Congress party has fielded Imran Pratapgarhi, the rock star Urdu poet from Moradabad. This seat had been secured by the BJP in 2014 Lok Sabha polls with just over 43% of the vote share. The Samajwadi party’s Dr S.T.Hasan had come second with a little over 35 % of the vote share with the BSP which had contested separately following at third place with about 15 percent of the votes. The mahagathbandhan had this seat well in control, with the Congress party candidate getting just about one percent of the votes. Except that this time the Congress has brought in the very popular Imran Pratapgarhi to contest the polls that could damage the coalition vote to a point where the BJP comes into power.

This has become a major cause of concern in western UP with given victories being re-opened by the Congress party that started the process actually, and the seats virtually surrended to the BJP. The minorities, already under tremendous pressure from aggressive state and central governments, have now been put into a position where they have to ensure a consolidation of their vote behind the Opposition candidate they perceive to be winning. The division that is bound to take place, could lose the mahagathbandhan sure shot seats without the Congress winning any.