New Delhi | BSP chief Mayawati's announcement that her party would contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections on its own has come as a jolt to the INDIA bloc and the Congress which was seeking to rope in the BSP in the opposition grouping.
The Mayawati's decision also dashed any hopes of uniting all non-BJP forces to put up a strong opposition against the BJP and opened the gates for a third force in the key Hindi heartland state of Uttar Pradesh.
This also shows that the Congress has failed to unite all "secular" like-minded parties in Uttar Pradesh in order to stop formation of any third force in the state which has the maximum 80 Lok Sabha seats.
Other regional outfits like the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) in Andhra Pradesh, Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) in Telangana and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha will also contest separately and will emerge as a third force in these states.
With the JDS in Karnataka already deciding to go with the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls, these regional forces in various states will hurt the interests of the INDIA bloc in the general elections.
Mayawati on Monday said the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) would go it alone in the Lok Sabha elections, but she did not rule out a post-poll alliance.
Sources said some Congress leaders had openly called for the inclusion of Mayawati's BSP in the INDIA bloc, despite opposition from the Samajwadi Party, and some back channel talks were also on.
The Congress, in its Raipur declaration in February last year, had also stated that "emergence of any third force will provide advantage to the BJP/NDA" and there was an urgent need to bring about opposition unity to take on NDA on ideological grounds.
"Unity of secular and socialist forces will be the hallmark of the future of the Congress party. Congress should go all out to identify, mobilise and align like-minded secular forces. We should include secular regional forces who agree with our ideology," the political resolution adopted at Raipur's Congress plenary session had said.
While the Congress denied that any of its leaders were in touch with the BSP leadership, sources said some back channel talks were on. Last week, UP Congress chief Ajay Rai said that the BSP should seriously consider joining the INDIA bloc.
"Given the current political scenario in the country and the condition of Dalits, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati should seriously consider joining the INDIA alliance," Rai had said.
The SP and BSP had contested the 2019 Lok Sabha elections together with each contesting 38 seats in Uttar Pradesh and did not field their candidates against the Congress in Amethi and Rae Bareli seats. While the BSP had won 10 seats in Uttar Pradesh, the SP had won five seats under the 'mahagathbandhan'.
Taking a jibe at the opposition, BJP spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill said, "Mayawati Ji has refused to board the crashing plane 'INDI' whose pilots are flying with eyes shut wearing eye blinders."
BJP leader Shehzad Poonawalla also hit out at the Congress over the issue.
"Congress was trying to use BSP as a negotiating chip with @samajwadiparty to get more seats in UP but BSP has called out bluff of Congress today saying they will go solo in 2024 LS elections," Poonawalla said in a post on X.
"Congress tried to be over smart & cancelled SP-Congress meeting too ! Yeh hai inka INDI alliance! It kept humiliating @yadavakhilesh ji calling him all kinds of names ! Ab Congress ki sthiti aisi hai 'Na Maya mili na Ram'," he said.
Earlier, talking to reporters at the state party office on her 68th birthday, Mayawati said that her party will fight the Lok Sabha polls alone on the strength of the poor and marginalised sections.
The BSP supremo also categorically denied reports in a section of the media about her retirement from politics and stressed that she will continue to strengthen the party till her last breath.
Mayawati's announcement assumes significance at a time when various opposition forces are trying to come together under one banner to take on the ruling BJP. The statement also holds importance as it comes a day after the Congress' Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, launched in Manipur on Sunday, was attended by suspended BSP MP Danish Ali.
Mayawati also cautioned her partymen against SP president Akhilesh Yadav, saying that he changed colours like a chameleon to mislead them.
She said after the Lok Sabha elections, the BSP can join the government at the Centre on the basis of proper representation to the party.
"The party will not contest the elections in alliance with anyone, but after the polls, unlike the previous times, the party is no longer going to give 'free support' from outside," the BSP chief said.
"Regarding the elections, I want to make it clear again that our party will fight the the Lok Sabha polls alone on the strength of the poor and marginalised sections, especially Dalits, tribals, Muslims and people of other religious minority communities.
"It was on their strength that in 2007, we formed a government with full majority in Uttar Pradesh by contesting the elections alone. Therefore, keeping in mind the past experience, our party will contest the Lok Sabha elections alone," she said.
Rejecting reports of her retirement doing the rounds on social media after she recently made her nephew Akash Anand as her political successor, Mayawati said they are "fake" and have no basis. "I will continue to strengthen the BSP till my last breath." Mayawati clarified that the BSP will keep distance from all parties having casteist, capitalist, and communal views.
She alleged that all the opposition parties want to keep the BSP away from power by uniting and adopting various tactics.