Do Akhilesh and Mayawati Understand the Theory of Friends with Benefits?

Politics

Do Akhilesh and Mayawati Understand the Theory of Friends with Benefits?

Illustration: Juergen Dsouza

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ncouraged by the recent bypoll successes, Akhilesh Yadav today sealed the Bua-Bhatija alliance of the BSP and SP parties for the 2019 elections by being the sacrificial lamb. Yadav claimed that he was ready to sacrifice Lok Sabha seats to Mayawati, his party’s long-time rival.

Their alliance is in response to BJP’s growing likeability in the UP voter base, which poses a threat to both Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav’s significance in the state. But, it has caused mixed reactions, with people fearing this union of two very different leaders. It’s what millennials would term as a “friends with benefits” relationship: Two starkly different people coming together for one common goal.

The toxic premise of any FWB relationship is that it’s purely transactional with no emotions attached. Of course, that condition works better when your transaction doesn’t impact the fate of several citizens of a country. As UP Minister Swami Prasad Maurya said in his statement, this “isn’t an alliance based on issues”. To be fair, both SP and BSP have been quite upfront about their fling.

As someone who’s seen dozens of couples go from being “Netflix and Chill” friends to having emotional breakdowns, it seems inevitable that this relationship too will end in misery. After all, when one party decides that they want more from life and that their purpose in this relationship has been fulfilled, the other is bound to get hurt. At this point, it’s only a question of who gets hurt.

As someone who’s seen dozens of couples go from being “Netflix and Chill” friends to having emotional breakdowns, it seems inevitable that this relationship too will end in misery.

Now, some optimists might argue that not all FWBs end this way, but it’s tough to believe this given that their history is checkered with conflict. The first BSP-SP alliance was in 1993, where Mayawati joined hands with Mulayam Singh Yadav to form a coalition. Within two years, Mayawati had packed up and left, leaving behind a bitter Mulayam behind. On his part, he tried winning Mayawati back in the most UP way possible: by sending goons to her house to force her into staying.

The BSP’s reaction to Mayawati’s departure, brings to light the second downside of every FWB relationship: You can no longer remain friends once its over. The 1995 incident was the foundation stone for a long-drawn out rivalry, that involved both BSP and SP leaders regularly hurling insults at each other. While Akhilesh has labelled Mayawati “Dalit ki beti” and “bua”, Mayawati has called Akhilesh his father’s “lallua” (boy).

Despite this, their alliance doesn’t come as a surprise, because the toxicity of a FWB relationship is never a secret. Both parties are aware that they can never be in a happy relationship, but selfishness and greed leads many astray. Mayawati’s fickle-minded political modus operandi is no secret: She famously ditched Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1999 and the BJP in UP in 1996, which makes her non long-term relationship material.

But it’s clear that the proposition of remaining relevant in a fast-changing political landscape is too tempting for both Akhilesh and Mayawati to not indulge in a little scandalous rendezvous. After all,  it’s all about loving your alliances.

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