February 29, 2024


Will the Congress-SP alliance be formidable in Uttar Pradesh?

(Image credit: Akhilesh Yadav’s X post)

As we approach the Lok Sabha elections, parties are shoring up their alliances in various states. That’s a bigger task for the opposition than anyone else. In particular, for the INDIA bloc and Congress. Both have been struggling with this recently.

The latest alliance confirmation is between Congress and the Samajwadi Party (SP) in the crucial state of Uttar Pradesh. There are 80 seats at stake in the state, and the BJP intends for a clean sweep. Will the Congress-SP alliance pose any threat? Can they dent the BJP’s hopes?


While there was talk and reports of a dispute between both parties, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav decided to quell those rumours and confirmed that alliance talks were on with the Congress. He spoke after there were murmurs about his absence from Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra in Amethi and Rae Bareli.

There were differences between both parties that needed to be ironed out. Congress decided to give up its demand for the Moradabad seat and instead asked for Sitapur, Shravasti, and Varanasi, where the SP announced its candidates. Varanasi is Modi’s constituency. The SP had already unilaterally announced candidates for 31 seats. The impasse between both parties ended after Priyanka Gandhi intervened.

At a joint press conference, the two parties announced that the SP will contest 63 seats and Congress 17. To set the scene, Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state. The BJP holds 62 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats. As far as the INDIA bloc is concerned, the timing couldn’t be better as its viability and unity were questioned in the wake of Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) joining the BJP.

With the announcement, the INDIA bloc became the first major alliance in the state to declare seats for each partner. The NDA hasn’t done that yet with its partners – the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), the NISHAD party, Apna Dal, and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD).

Let’s look back at recent history for some electoral context. The 2022 state elections were a disaster for the SP. The BJP made history by winning a consecutive election in Uttar Pradesh at the end of a five-year term. It increased its vote share from 39% to 41.3%.

Among the seats that Congress will contest is Rae Bareli, the only seat the party won in the state in 2019. In the previous general elections, the SP and Congress contested separately, and the SP won five seats. The apprehension from the SP this time is Congress contesting the polls separately and splitting the Muslim vote, constituting 19% of the state’s electorate.

Uttar Pradesh is a crucial state for the NDA and the INDIA bloc with the SP on board. Can they give the BJP a run for their money?

VIEW: An uphill battle

Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav put aside their differences to form a grand alliance to defeat the BJP in the 2019 elections. Much of the prognostication was that the majority BJP government was in trouble and would lose. Some polls reflected this. However, that didn’t happen. The BJP increased its vote share to almost 50%. This was before the Supreme Court’s decisive and controversial verdict on the Ram Temple. This is what the alliance is up against.

The state and the BJP are in good spirits and still basking in the afterglow of last month’s Ram Temple inauguration. The Congress – SP alliance is weaker compared to 2019’s BSP-SP-RLD alliance. The latter catered to a rainbow coalition of Muslims, Yadavs, Jats, Dalits, and a section of other backward castes (OBCs). The current alliance sees less visibility for Dalits and OBCs. There’s also Chandrasekhar Azad’s Azad Samaj Party, which secured just 0.1% of the votes in the 2022 state elections.

The departure of the Jayant Chaudhary-led RLD is a blow to the INDIA bloc, especially in the western part of the state. That’s where the Jats are most influential. What’s worse is that Chaudhary has joined the BJP. Then there’s Mayawati and her BSP, likely to contest all 80 seats. A triangular contest in most seats isn’t good news for the INDIA bloc. This will most likely split the opposition vote and help the BJP.

COUNTERVIEW: BJP shouldn’t be complacent

While it’s true that the BJP commands a good portion of the non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav Dalits, the SP has realised a significant section of these communities are being pushed away by the BJP. Among the reasons are inflation, unemployment, and agriculture issues. The SP has strategies to target these particular sections. Combined with the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra to galvanise these communities, it could be a formidable formula.

The SP and Congress have their shortcomings. While the SP succeeded in getting a majority of the Muslim and Yadav votes in 2022, they weren’t successful in getting OBC and Dalit voters. For the Congress, despite Priyanka Gandhi’s popularity, these communities didn’t vote for it in 2022, thinking the party wouldn’t be up for a bi-polar fight. With both parties coming together now, these can be overcome.

Despite being in the afterglow of the Ram Temple inauguration, the BJP understands it won’t likely repeat its 2014 and 2019 performance in the state. Much of the enthusiasm around the Temple doesn’t guarantee votes on the ground. The recent farmer protests could complicate things for the BJP. Traditionally, farmer struggles have impacted the area thanks to Mahendra Singh Tikait and his struggle. Some reports also suggest the 2021 Lakhimpur Kheri incident in which the son of a Union Minister mowed down some farmers and the resulting lack of action still lingers in people’s memory.

Reference Links:

  • Inside story of Akhilesh Yadav-Congress alliance, Priyanka Gandhi’s starring role – India Today
  • Lok Sabha elections: SP, Congress seal UP seat share pact – The Hindustan Times
  • AAP, SP, Congress and some Déjà Vu – The Sunday Guardian
  • Congress-SP Alliance Seals Seat-Sharing Deal in UP and MP, but Some Major Challenges Remain – The Wire
  • SP-INC weaker than the 2019 SP-BSP-RLD alliance, but BJP’s 2024 target of 80/80 in UP gets tougher – Moneycontrol
  • What Might the Congress-Samajwadi Party Alliance Achieve in Uttar Pradesh? – The Wire
  • SP-Congress combine will force BJP to shed its complacency in UP – Deccan Herald
  • Why BJP Should Not Ignore Samajwadi Party-Congress Alliance – NDTV

What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)

a) The Congress-SP alliance won’t be formidable in Uttar Pradesh.

b) The Congress-SP alliance will be formidable in Uttar Pradesh.


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