The split in the(SP), which increasingly looks imminent, is bad news for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), not just for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls but also for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
With the Congress weakened, the BJP effort has been to dent the support base as well as credibility of regional political parties that have the potential to form the nucleus of a strong third front in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
These parties are Uttar Pradesh-based SP and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP); Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha; the Dravidian parties of Tamil Nadu; the Nitish Kumar-Lalu Prasadcombine in Bihar, Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress in Bengal and the Left parties.
The states where these parties wield influence – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Bengal, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Jharkhand and Tripura – send over 250 seats to the Lok Sabha, that is nearly half its strength of 543.
The long-term BJP plan is to fill the vacuum created by the decline of some of these regional parties and capture the support bases these parties have in their respective states, particularly among Hindus – primarily the Dalits and Other Backward Castes.
In the last two years, the BJP has tried to weaken these regional parties, but not always with significant success, as the Bihar Assembly poll results of 2015 showed. In recent months, the BJP cadre has been galvanised in Kerala, Bengal and Odisha. The party held its national council meeting in Kozhikode in Kerala in September.