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The nuts and bolts of making a coalition work

The concerted campaign of Akhilesh and Mayawati invokes Ambedkar and Lohia, and targets the BJP and the Congress

Their arrivals and departures are coordinated. They arrive separately by helicopter, but climb the stairs together to the stage from their respective “green rooms” at their joint rally in Barabanki on a searing hot Wednesday afternoon.

Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati’s messages seem coordinated — right from the invocation of Bhimrao Ambedkar to Ram Manohar Lohia — and their sharp attacks on both the BJP and the Congress.

And, both leaders repeatedly talk about their symbols, the cycle and the elephant, and the need for the right buttons to be pressed for “gatbandhan”, or coalition, candidates. They parade three candidates before the crowd from Faizabad, Bahraich and Barabanki; all three of them from the SP.

Ms. Mayawati specifically refers to the heat wave in the region.

“Don’t get disturbed by the heat. And, don’t get bogged down by your need to eat. You have to fast for a few hours, but you must come out in the morning and vote first.”

The four-time former Chief Minister said three times that the “gatbandhan” will form the next government at the Centre, sending a signal to both the BJP and the rest of the Opposition that they are major contenders for power.

Antipathy for Congress

Her antipathy for the Congress is evident. The Congress, she said, even put up a candidate against Bhimrao Ambedkar in 1952 and ensured his defeat from Mumbai, while warning those attending the rally not to get taken in by tall promises made in the manifestos.

The SP and BSP are to hold as many as 13 rallies together and even have a joint committee at the booth level to coordinate their strategies. “These Lok Sabha results will surprise you,” Mr. Yadav told , dismissing allegations made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the SP and the BSP will part ways as soon as the results are declared on March 23.

At his rally, the SP chief echoes what Ms. Mayawati had just said — that there is little difference between the BJP and the Congress. His supporters at this SP bastion, however, lustily chant a Rahul Gandhi slogan — “chowkidar chor hai.

Interestingly, he doesn’t repeat the slogan from the stage, but picks up on the “chowki,” or station, part of chowkidar. “This is a battle to snatch the chowki — not just one [Delhi], but also in Lucknow,” he said to cheers from the audience.

Stray cattle

Both Mr. Yadav, and earlier, Ms. Mayawati make a reference to the menace of “awara pashu or chutta janwar” (stray cattle) at their rally. “These animals were in full flight at our helipads in Hardoi and Kannauj,” the SP leader said.

Mr. Yadav takes a potshot at the BJP’s claims that the November 2016 demonetisation decision would end terrorism, and refers to the deaths of 16 security personnel at the hands of Naxalites in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, on Wednesday. He is also scathing about Mr. Modi’s claims that the “gatbandhan” was “mahamilawat”, or a grand adulteration. “They [the BJP] have 38 parties in their coalition. Isn’t it maha, mahamilawat,” he asked the crowd.

Green rooms

After he ends his speech, Mr. Yadav and Ms. Mayawati go down to their respective green rooms again. After a while, Mr. Yadav emerges and goes to meet Ms. Mayawati in her green room for confabulations. He emerges after about 20 minutes; Ms. Mayawati then leaves in a bullet-proof Ambassador car, closely followed by Mr. Yadav. Though the rally has ended, the crowds brave the heat to wave at Mr. Yadav as he boards his chopper back to Lucknow.

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