The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) defeat in the Bhadohi Assembly by-election in Uttar Pradesh last month was a big blow. Not only was this the first major setback for the Mayawati-led BSP, but also showed the flaws in the first-Lucknow-next-stop-Delhi project.
However, just a fortnight later the BSP has reason to cheer. Negotiations between the Mulayam Singh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party (SP) and Congress have almost broken down. This means a division in votes, that has enthused BSP.
While both SP and Congress will be spitting venom against each other in more than 20 seats, the BSP is hoping to cash on SP's decision to rope in former Chief Minister and alleged architect of the Babri Masjid demolition, Kalyan Singh, something that minorities have greeted with dismay.
With the national parties like the BJP and the Congress virtually decimated in the state, the coming election will see a straight SP versus BSP clash in many constituencies.
For national parties, only a few seats are safe: like Amethi and Rae Bareli for the Congress; and Ghaziabad (the constituency of party president Rajnath Singh) and Varanasi (where party leader Murli Manohar Joshi is contesting from) for the BJP.
So it is clear that the election will be about the SP and BSP. Of the two, it is the BSP which is more confident, having announced its candidates from all 80 constituencies.
The party is concentrating on 17 reserved seats of which it had bagged only 5 in last general elections. In 2004 the party had no strategic caste alliance like this time, when it has cobbled together the Brahmin and Dalit communities. Also, the party was in second place in 11 out of 17 of these seats in 2004. So reserved seats are likely to fall in the bag. It
is also hopeful of getting the support of Muslims in certain key constituencies where it has fielded stalwarts like Mukhtar Ansari from Varanasi and his brother Afzal from Ghazipur. It hopes the fallout will positively affect six seats in surrounding eastern UP including Mau,Ghosi, Azamgarh and Chandauli.
The Samajwadi Party has announced 64 candidates so far. It is once again banking on the Muslim, Yadav and Rajput combine. With Kalyan Singh by his side, SP is also looking to win Bulandshaher, Khurja-Hapur, Hathur and
Nagina seats with the help of Lodh votes. For Mulayam Singh Yadav, the biggest challenge is represented by those who have switched loyalties.