New Delhi: Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have entered an alliance to contest the Lok Sabha elections 2019. Interestingly, the Congress has been kept out of the alliance. However, both Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati have assured Rahul Gandhi that they will keep out of the Congress home turfs of Amethi and Raebareli.

According to MyNation sources, Akhilesh and Mayawati have agreed to fight in 37 seats each. 

Ajit Singh of Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) has been given two seats, while two to three seats have been kept for other smaller parties like Om Prakash Rajbhar's Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, if and when to choose to join the alliance. 

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According to a survey by India TV if elections are held today in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP will get 40 out of 80 seats, which is much less than the 71 seats they got in 2014. With the alliance between Mayawati and Akhilesh being finalised, will the seats of the BJP further go down? So what could be the BJP's strategy to counter this jugalbandi?

1. Undoing Thakurvaad, wooing back upper caste


It's no secret that in Uttar Pradesh, the Thakurs — a caste chief minister Yogi Adityanath represents — are today as powerful as the Yadavs under Akhilesh. The upper caste, particularly the Brahmins and Baniyas, who have traditionally favoured the BJP even when the SP and BSP had ruled the state, are feeling left out. 

BJP MPs from Uttar Pradesh have talked about disenchantment among the cadre in their reports to the party president. According to sources, the massive number of NOTA votes in the Madhya Pradesh elections last year has made the BJP take the thakurvaad narrative seriously.    

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The aim is to woo back the upper castes, who have so far been taken for granted by the BJP. To start off, the Modi government on Monday okayed 10% quota for upper caste poor over and above the existing quotas.

The government said it is ready to go for a constitutional amendment to implement the measure. This move is being touted as a masterstroke by political pundits and gimmick by the Opposition, and could be the game changer in winning back the upper castes. Rajput, Bhumihar, Baniya and Jats will be the prime beneficiaries of this new reservation policy. It is expected to address the grievances of the Jats in Uttar Pradesh, who have long been demanding a quota.

As another move to attract the upper castes, sources say that a district of Uttar Pradesh may soon be named after Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Though many may find it normal, considering Vajpayee's stature, that he was a Brahmin is a significant factor in caste-sensitive Uttar Pradesh. 

Prime Minister Modi on January 24 will be visiting the Sangam at Prayagraj, where he is expected to take part in hour-long Hindu rituals. A dharma sansad will also be held on the sidelines of the Sangam which will take a call on the Ram temple issue. Modi has, however, said that there won't be there won't be any ordinance on this before the Supreme Court verdict. At the dharma sansad, Modi is expected to hail the role played by the saints in spiritually guiding the nation. These are actions packed with imagery targeting the dissatisfied Brahmin community in the state. 

2. By dividing OBCs


It has been a longstanding demand to get sub-quotas within quotas meant for the OBCs. Faced with a challenge from the SP-BSP alliance, the BJP is actively looking at an implementing sub-quotas within the OBCs. A BJP Rajya Sabha MP confirmed this to MyNation, though he refused to give details on how the BJP plans to implement it.

The goal is simple: to make a dent in the core vote bank of the SP and BSP. A four-member social justice committee set up by the Modi government, after Yogi Adityanath swept to power in Uttar Pradesh, recommended three subcategories among OBCs — backward class, more backward class, and most backward class. The committee headed by Justice Raghvendra Kumar proposed 7% quota for backward classes, giving the lion's share of 11% to more backward classes and 9% to most backward classes.

Rajbhars and Nishads, two prominent sub-caste of most backward class will get an assured quota within quota if this proposal is implemented. Om Prakash Rajbhar, a key ally of the NDA in Uttar Pradesh, had threatened to go on a stir if it wasn't implemented. The Nishads threw their weight behind the proposal.  

Faced with an alliance between Akhilesh and Mayawati, the BJP is 'actively exploring' options to implement the proposals of the Justice Raghvendra Kumar committee, that will keep the NDA flock intact.

Also, it will mean that Gujjars, Lodhs, Kushwahas, Sainis, Telis, Sahus and other sub-castes, which fall under the more backward class, will back the BJP in 2019 if this proposal is implemented before the general election is announced, as they would have got the lion's share of the reservations. Furthermore, in the new sub-quota structure, they together will yield more influence than the Yadavs who fall in the backward class.

Yadavs have been traditionally a powerful lobby and faithful to the SP. This isolation of Yadavs may prove crucial in a state where caste decides the way one votes and could lead to a non-Yadav OBC consolidation against the Yadavs. 

3. Dalit outreach through 'khichdi'


Just a few days after the SP-BSP alliance, the BJP launched its Dalit outreach programme. As a beginner, the BJP organised a 'Bhim Mahasangam' in Delhi on Monday. Khichdi, an Indian staple made of dal and rice, was served at the event at a subsidised rate. It was distributed under the banner of Vijay Sankalp 2019. In what the organisers claim has created a world record 5,000kg of khichdi was prepared.

Needless to say, this was done with an eye on the Dalit vote bank, which has been a source of strength of Mayawati. Though the BSP could even open its account in the last general election, with a growing perception of the Yogi government's antipathy towards Dalits, Mayawati is expected to benefit. Therefore, this move by the BJP and its affiliated organisations can be seen as a counter-stretegy. However, the BJP's own Dalit MP Udit Raj sounded sceptical on how much it will translate into votes.

Uttar Pradesh is India's most populous state and the way to the Prime Minister's house cannot but go through it. In 2014, the BJP under Amit Shah delivered a stunner of a victory by winning 71 seats. 

The BJP is getting battle-ready in earnest for the Lok Sabha elections. They have announced four election in-charges for Uttar Pradesh by bringing in old Gujarat VHP hands like Gordhan Zadaphia. It shows how serious the party is to create a dent in the bua-bhatija alliance. Can they? Well, with okaying a quota for the upper caste poor, the BJP has kickstarted its 'reclaim UP' strategy.