The joint poll rally of once-arch rivals Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) at Deoband in Western Uttar Pradesh (UP), the first-of-its-kind political spectacle in the state’s politics, sprang up some interesting visual cues that underlined the, at best, uneasy alliance.

Among the top three leaders of the alliance, Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav and Ajit Singh the body language of the Jat leader was almost squeamish which also indicates his weakest position in the alliance, the smallest partner.

However, the confusion in seating between the Yadav scion and chief of the SP and BSP supremo Mayawati was perhaps an indication of how brittle and tenuous their equation still is.

While Akhilesh came up on the stage and started waving to the cawing crowds, Mayawati seemed upset with the central position that Akhilesh thus occupied. She directed Akhilesh twice to come to her other side, towards long-time Mayawati-loyalist Satish Chandra Mishra, but Akhilesh was engaged with the crowd.

As young Dalit leader Chandra Shekhar Azad looked on befuddled, Mayawati finally caught Akhilesh’s attention and he was told to come to the other side. However, before moving, Akhilesh himself looked oddly at the matter of seats. Mayawati and Mishra told him to come to change sides.

Finally, he settled for the extreme left position, relegated with Mishra and the combined hand-waving commenced, as if the alliance had come together, though for the time being.

Last, but most significant observation at the rally seemed to be that Mayawati finally succeeded in getting the central position on the podium and while the cameras zoomed out to show them together, she was looking as ‘the’ neta of the alliance, ‘flanked’ by other men.

But, on balance, Akhilesh’s confounded queries to Mayawati and Mishra as to where he was supposed to stand in the fixture is understandable. The SP, though its worst Lok Sabha performance so far, bagged five seats in 2014 elections, and Mayawati’s BSP failed to open its account. Sliced any which way, Akhilesh should have been at the centre of the show.

If this is how the relations between the two parties play out at the grass-roots level on the days of voting, their shared-with-difficulty dream of dislodging the BJP could be chattered to pieces.

In the first phase of Lok Sabha elections 2019, eight seats from western UP will go under the EVM button on April 11, including Kairana, Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Bagpat, Ghaziabad, Bijnor and Gautam Budh Nagar or Noida.  

In 2014, all these had been bagged by the BJP, though the Kairana by-election had sowed the seeds of this ‘mahagathbandhan’. The BSP and SP had supported an RLD candidate to snatch it from the BJP.