The developments in Bihar have punctured the move by the Opposition to unite against the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) in Uttar Pradesh.

According to sources, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s joining hands with the BJP has come as a shock to the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Congress, who were planning to emulate Bihar’s “Mahagathbandhan” model in order to take on a resurgent BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

“The failure of the Mahagathbandhan experiment has put these parties on the back foot. These parties were contemplating to field a common candidate for the possible byelection at the Phulpur Lok Sabha seat in the event of Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya resigning from there. Maurya is an MP from Phulpur, but he will have to resign if he continues in the Yogi Adityanath Cabinet.

Speaking to this newspaper, BJP spokesperson G.V.L. Narasimha Rao said the Opposition is in tatters. “The marginalisation of the Congress and other UPA partners, which began in 2014, has continued even after three years. Except  for Punjab, they have not been able to win any election after that. There is a feeling that the UPA is unviable as these parties are losing election after election. These parties are gravitating away from the Congress in anticipation of a big defeat. Therefore, any anti-BJP formation, or Mahagathbandhan, involving the Congress, is unviable,” he said.

A state BJP leader told The Sunday Guardian that the so-called effort by the SP, BSP and Congress to unite has no meaning as they have always been together, openly or covertly, in the past. “There is nothing new. The SP and BSP have been partners of Congress, directly or indirectly. The previous Akhilesh Yadav government, in fact, gave protection to the BSP by not taking action against the misdeeds of the preceding Mayawati government. They are like bin dulha baraati (baraati without a groom). Now, after the Bihar developments, they are on the back foot,” he said.

Though the BJP is confident that it would win the byelection, if it happens, it does not want to give the three parties any opportunity to rally around and, therefore, sources said Maurya may continue to remain an MP. He will be asked to resign from the Cabinet of CM Yogi Adityanath. There are indications that BSP chief Mayawati, who recently resigned from the Rajya Sabha, may be the joint candidate of the Opposition parties in the probable Phulpur byelection.

The BJP does not want to disturb the tempo of the grand victory in UP, started since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. A final decision on Maurya is likely to be taken after BJP president Amit Shah gets feedback from the local party unit. Shah is in Lucknow on a three-day visit, during which he will hold meetings with various party units and workers. On Saturday, Shah interacted with BJP office bearers from Awadh, Kashi, Gorakhpur and Kanpur. He will also interact with various district presidents and district in-charges. Sources said if Maurya is asked to retain Phulpur, he may be accommodated in the Union Cabinet in the next reshuffle, which is expected soon. The reshuffle may accommodate some JDU leaders too, including Sharad Yadav.

BJP sources said a decision will also be taken during Shah’s Lucknow visit about CM Adityanath’s seat. Adityanath is an MP from Gorakhpur, but he needs to seek membership in the Assembly. It is believed that he would contest from a seat in the Gorakhpur area, though some party leaders want him to contest from Ayodhya.

Another Deputy CM of UP, Dinesh Sharma, sources said, may be sent to the legislative council. He is not a member of any House. A decision is also likely to be taken on other ministers like Swatantra Deo Singh and Mohsin Raza, who are not part of any House.

As for Yogi and Maurya, they can remain MP till 19 September and, therefore, can participate in the vice presidential election.

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