New alliance increases pressure on Modi’s ruling BJP

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LUCKNOW, INDIA: Two regional parties that were former bitter rivals announced an unlikely alliance Saturday to fight Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist party in a looming general election.

The Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) — key players in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh — said they would set aside their differences to jointly fight Modi in the bedrock state.

The two central-left parties have widespread support among lower castes and poor voters across the state — India’s most populous, with 220 million people.

Uttar Pradesh is a bellwether of national politics, accounting for 80 of the 552 members of parliament in New Delhi. An election is expected to be held in April and May and one recent poll indicated Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may fall short of a majority.

Akhilesh Yadav, the Samajwadi Party head, said the alliance would counter the “divisive politics” of the BJP, which won a landslide victory in 2014.

“The BJP is dividing the country, it is stoking fear and hatred among communities,” Yadav told a news conference sat alongside Mayawati, a popular low-caste leader who heads the BSP.

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