New Delhi: In his speech after being reinstated as the chief minister of Uttarakhand on Wednesday, Harish Rawat thanked Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati for her “support during the crucial floor test". It was Mayawati—the balance of power in the 71-member state assembly—who gave the Congress a shot in the arm by committing her support to Rawat on the morning of the floor test.

“I am grateful to Mayawatiji for helping me win the floor test. I have no words to express my gratitude to her. The BSP help was such a relief," Rawat told the Times of India in an interview on Wednesday.

Rawat faced a trust vote on Tuesday, which he won with the support of 33 of the 61 MLAs. The BSP announced early morning on Tuesday that both its MLAs—Sarwat Karim Ansari and Haridas—would support the Congress, a significant move to the run-up to the Uttar Pradesh (UP) election which is barely a year away.

BSP’s help was seen by Rawat as an indication of a possible alliance for the UP election. The chief minister told Times of India that although a pre-poll alliance with the BSP will be finalised only by the Congress central leadership, such an understanding may develop between the two like-minded parties to fight communal forces like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). “This will be our common goal, we will join hands with the BSP to prevent a party like the BJP from being voted to office," he said.

Mayawati, on her part, put an end to the growing speculation about the two parties contesting the UP elections together. She clarified in a statement on Wednesday that her support to the Congress in Uttarakhand was merely a move to fight “communal forces" and should not be mistaken for a possible alliance between the two parties in the upcoming elections, not just in Uttar Pradesh but even in Punjab and Uttarakhand.

“BSP is fundamentally against allying with the Congress, the BJP or any other party and we will go alone in UP, Punjab and Uttarakhand next year. However, supporting a particular party to defeat communal forces after an election is a separate thing," the statement said.

To be sure, the party has key stakes in all the three poll-bound states. The party won 80 out of the 403 seats it contested in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections—Samajwadi Party won 224 and formed the government—and three out of the 70 seats it contested in Uttarakhand in 2012. Even though BSP drew a blank on all the 117 seats it had contested in Punjab the same year, the state remains a BSP stronghold and strategically important for Mayawati.

It was Punjab, which has a sizeable Dalit population of 32% as per Census 2011, from where BSP founder Kanshi Ram launched the party, and a good show in Punjab would mean better preparedness for UP which will go to polls soon after Punjab in 2017.

However, in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BSP faced a complete rout with the BJP, riding on the Narendra Modi wave, recorded a historic victory by getting 71 out of the 80 parliamentary seats in UP. Even the Congress was reduced to merely two seats—Rae Bareli and Amethi—which have always voted for the Nehru-Gandhi family.

Analysts feel that with the BJP aggressively campaigning to redo a 2014 in 2017 in UP with special focus on the Dalit vote, Mayawati has every reason to be wary of the party which, interestingly, her party supported thrice in the past.

“BSP and BJP have come together three times in the past to fight elections in UP. The move in Uttarakhand is therefore also a way by which BSP is clearly distancing itself from its friend-turned-enemy BJP. The last-minute announcement to go with the Congress is Mayawati’s way of controlling her enemies. Moreover, with Congress hardly having any stakes in the UP election, Mayawati is now presenting herself as direct competition to the BJP," said Ramesh Dixit, a Lucknow-based political analyst.

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