Mumbai: With the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) close to finalizing their pre-poll alliance in Uttar Pradesh for the 2019 general elections, the probability of strategic state-level tie-ups seems to be higher than an anti-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) grand alliance at the national level.

In fact, a national model for state-level alliances instead of a “mahagathbandhan" seems to be emerging from other states as well.

Though the Congress, which has marginal presence in UP, is not part of the alliance, SP-BSP on Sunday said that they will not put up candidates in Amethi and Rae Bareli, the home turfs of Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi. SP chief Akhilesh Yadav said on Sunday that details of seat-sharing with Mayawati-led BSP may be announced in a week, according to Press Trust of India. The SP and BSP are expected to contest 37 seats each, leaving 6 for smaller allies including 2 for Congress. UP has 80 Lok Sabha seats, out of which the BJP had won 71 on its own in 2014.

In Maharashtra, the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) are set to formalize their pre-poll alliance, though both parties have not been able to address their differences over 8 key seats. Other anti-BJP parties such as Prakash Ambedkar’s Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, the Left parties and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) are not yet part of the opposition alliance in Maharashtra.

In Maharashtra, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Congress president Rahul Gandhi met at least five times over the past few months. Several rounds of talks were also held between other senior leaders of both parties. State NCP chief Jayant Patil told reporters on Saturday that the two parties had reached consensus on 40 of the 48 seats and differences over the remaining seats would be resolved by Sunday. While the two parties are likely to settle for an equitable seat-sharing formula, smaller allies comprising anti-BJP parties are likely to be accommodated by the Congress and the NCP.

However, the Left, SP, and the BSP are not part of this alliance yet, while the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh and AIMIM have already announced a separate alliance. A couple of months ago, the NCP had suggested that Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) be made part of the alliance, since he had been very critical of the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, the Congress rejected it saying MNS’ school of politics did not sit well with the secular brand of politics.

The Shiv Sena, which is still part of the BJP-led NDA, despite being a bitter Modi critic, has so far rejected BJP’s overtures for a pre-poll alliance. It had also virtually ruled itself out of the anti-BJP dispensation in November 2018, when party chief Uddhav Thackeray visited Ayodhya and upped the ante for the construction of a Ram mandir. In fact, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had promptly reminded the Shiv Sena that it had to ally with the BJP if it was committed to Hindutva.

Contours of this anti-BJP narrative and alliance are also likely to emerge out of an anti-BJP rally called by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in Kolkata on 19 January. Though TMC supremo and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee will be the main protagonist at this rally, other prominent opposition leaders personally invited by Banerjee are likely to show up as well.

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