It may be a fit case of late realisation of their strength. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav reportedly indicated on March 9 - the day exit polls for the state Assembly elections were declared - that his Samajwadi Party was ready to join hands with Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party than to see the state under President's Rule.
Akhilesh reportedly also said all "secular forces" should come together to keep the "communal" BJP away from power in case there is a hung Assembly when the result is declared on Saturday.
The Uttar Pradesh CM seems to be desperate to create a post-poll alliance against the BJP. However, there would not have been any such need had he agreed to stitch the same alliance before the Assembly election.
In fact, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) supremo Lalu Prasad had made sincere efforts to create a Bihar-style 'Grand Alliance' in Uttar Pradesh. But that did not fructify. SP entered into a pre-poll alliance only with Congress and missed to create a formidable grand alliance with BSP keeping away.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar pointed out that any grand alliance would have been possible if both SP and BSP would have come together like the JD(U) and RJD did in Bihar.
THE BIHAR EXPERIMENT
In Bihar, Janata Dal (U), RJD and Congress had come together to deal a resounding defeat to BJP in the 2015 Assembly election. SP, BSP and Congress could have done a Bihar in UP too. However, they missed the chance.
Except for the Bihar's non-BJP grand alliance, there are several similarities between the conditions of the 2015 Bihar Assembly elections and the recently-held Uttar Pradesh polls. In Bihar, this mahagathbandhan swept the polls because the caste and Muslim factors weighed heavily in its favour.
The same story could have got repeated in UP if the ruling SP, BSP and Congress had come together on a single platform. This unprecedented combination would most likely have proved invincible.
UP'S SIMILARITIES WITH BIHAR
As in Bihar, BJP did not declare its chief ministerial candidate for UP. It banked upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi's magic and BJP president Amit Shah's poll management.
Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad had encashed on the "Baahri versus Bihari" sentiment. The same sentiment was repeated in UP when SP leaders, including Akhilesh's wife Dimple Yadav, called Modi and Shah outsiders. Even Congress president Sonia Gandhi's daughter Priyanka Vadra attacked the two top BJP leaders on that score.
As in the case of RJD in Bihar, Yadavs and Muslims form the mainstay of SP in UP. It had come back to power in 2012 with their solid backing. While Yadavs constitute 15 per cent of the state's total votes, Muslims form 18 per cent.
In the 2012 elections, SP had registered its highest vote share of 29.15 per cent of total votes polled, winning 224 of the total 403 seats.
SP's traditional rival BSP had polled 25.91 per cent of the total votes cast, winning 80 seats. The Congress, which had fought elections under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, won 28 seats, polling 11.63 per cent of votes.
On the other hand, BJP managed to win only 47 seats, polling only 15 per cent of total votes cast.
Hence, together SP, BSP and Congress could have made BJP run for its money.
FACTORS WHICH COULD HAVE FAVOURED SP-BSP-CONGRESS ALLIANCE
SP's anti-incumbency would have been offset by the presence of BSP. The Muslim votes would not have got split. They would have gone to the grand alliance in Bihar. Brahmins and a large section of Dalits would also have chosen this mahagathbandhan over BJP.
The template had already been cast in Bihar where the Yadavs and Muslims - RJD's votebanks - polled aggressively in favour of the mahagathbandhan. In Bihar, while Yadavs constitute 14 per cent the voters, Muslims are 17 per cent. Kurmis, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's castemen who comprise 4 per cent of the voters, too voted for the grand alliance.
The experiment was successful. The RJD and JD(U), which had fielded 101 candidates each on the total 243 constituencies, won 80 and 71 seats respectively. Congress, which fielded 41 candidates on 41 seats, won 27. Total, they won a whopping 178 of the 243 seats.
While RJD polled 18.4 per cent of the votes cast, JD(U) polled 16.8 and Congress 6.7 per cent.
On the other hand, BJP failed to match the grand alliance's combined strength. It won just 53 of the 157 seats it contested. Strike rate-wise, its performance was poorest than all the three parties of the mahagathbandhan. However, on individual level, it polled the highest percentage of votes - 24.4 per cent.
But with Mayawati deciding to stay away from any grand alliance, a Bihar redux may remain elusive. An alliance between SP and Congress, with BSP and Ajit Singh's RLD not included in it, left the field open for BJP. With BSP and SP remaining split over the question of pre-poll alliance, it may be a case of crying over split milk over forming a post-poll alliance.