Two powerful regional parties announced they will fight elections together in India’s most populous state, threatening Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bid to retain power in federal elections due by May.
Mayawati, leader of the Bahujan Samaj Party and Akhilesh Yadav, head of the Samajwadi Party, jointly said they will together contest 38 each of the 80 parliamentary seats in Uttar Pradesh state, forming a formidable alliance to challenge Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. The group won’t field candidates in the remaining four seats, which includes two constituencies represented by leaders of the Indian National Congress party.
“Our common goal is to defeat the BJP,” said Yadav, former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. “We will fight the BJP’s authoritarian rule.”
The development represents the biggest electoral threat to BJP, which won 71 seats in Uttar Pradesh in the 2014 national elections, significantly contributing to Modi’s thumping majority in the lower house of parliament. It is also a setback for the opposition Congress party, which is trying to forge an alliance with regional parties to take on the BJP.
With a population of 204 million — about the size of Brazil — Uttar Pradesh sends more lawmakers than any other state to both houses of parliament. The move leaves scope for political realignment among opposition parties after the election.
The parties agreed not to field candidates in Amethi and Raebareli that Congress President Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi will contest, Mayawati and Yadav said in a press conference in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh. “It will worry the BJP as these regional parties are the real challenge,” said Ajoy Bose, a Delhi-based political analyst who wrote a biography on Mayawati.
Modi launches campaign with ‘miles to go’
PM Narendra Modi kicked off his re-election campaign on Saturday, saying he had “miles to go” before his vision for a new India is completed as he sought support to ensure his administration returns to office for a second term.
Opposition parties are cobbling together an alliance because they are threatened by the strength of the government, Modi told members of his Bharatiya Janata Party in New Delhi. He was referring to two powerful regional parties which announced hours earlier that they will fight parliamentary elections together in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state.
“We need to take India to new heights,” Modi said, asking BJP workers to ensure the party’s victory in elections due by May so that his government stays in power “for the coming five years.”
An alliance of opposition parties in UP represents the biggest electoral threat to BJP, significantly contributing to Modi’s thumping majority in the lower house of parliament.