Alliance in Key Indian State Threatens Modi's Re-Election Bid

(Bloomberg) -- Two powerful regional parties announced they will fight elections together in India’s most populous state, threatening Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bid to retain power in federal elections due by May.

Mayawati, leader of the Bahujan Samaj Party and Akhilesh Yadav, head of the Samajwadi Party, jointly said they will together contest 38 each of the 80 parliamentary seats in Uttar Pradesh state, forming a formidable alliance to challenge Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. The group won’t field candidates in the remaining four seats, which includes two constituencies represented by leaders of the Indian National Congress party.

“Our common goal is to defeat the BJP,” said Yadav, former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. “We will fight the BJP’s authoritarian rule.”

The development represents the biggest electoral threat to BJP, which won 71 seats in Uttar Pradesh in the 2014 national elections, significantly contributing to Modi’s thumping majority in the lower house of parliament. It is also a setback for the opposition Congress party, which is trying to forge an alliance with regional parties to take on the BJP.

With a population of 204 million -- about the size of Brazil -- Uttar Pradesh sends more lawmakers than any other state to both houses of parliament. The move leaves scope for political realignment among opposition parties after the election.

The parties agreed not to field candidates in Amethi and Raebareli that Congress President Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi will contest, Mayawati and Yadav said on Saturday in a televised press conference in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh.

“It will worry the BJP as these regional parties are the real challenge,” said Ajoy Bose, a Delhi-based political analyst who wrote a biography on Mayawati. “The BJP will lose seats and it will be very difficult for it to get a majority.”

The BJP is likely to suffer a loss of 31 seats compared with 2014 elections even without an opposition alliance, an India TV-CNX opinion poll, taken in December after the ruling party lost power in three state elections, said in January. Without taking into account of the latest development in Uttar Pradesh, the poll said the BJP’s coalition may only win 257 seats in the general election, 15 fewer than the half-way point in the 543-seat lower house.

“Our votes get consolidated successfully when we tie-up with the Samajwadi Party,” said Mayawati, also a former chief minister in the state and an icon of the country’s traditionally oppressed Dalits who were once known as “untouchables. “We believe that we will dethrone the BJP.”

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