Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati has not been in the headlines in the recent times unlike some of the other heavyweights of Indian politics.
The reason is her party's debacle in last year's Lok Sabha election in which, despite being the competitor with the third largest vote-share, it could not win a single seat. The consecutive losses in UP Assembly polls in 2012 and then in the general polls pushed the BSP to the corner for some time.
Mayawati will be the player to look out for in 2017 UP polls
But that script has started undergoing a change, one presumes. With the next Assembly polls in UP just over a year away and three of the four main forces in the state not in a great shape, it is Mayawati who is drawing a growing attention.
The seasoned Mayawati also understands that and is making her voice heard at times, but without any consistency, which makes it difficult even the most efficient of analysts to predict which way she will eventually go at the time of the polls
No Bihar model in UP, that's for sure
After the Bihar results, the general assumption is that all regional enemies will now join hands to stop Narendra Modi's BJP. But that is unlikely to hold true for UP where the situation is different from its eastern neighbour.
Times are not good for Samajwadi Party
The ruling Samajwadi Party (SP), after its fabulous victory in the 2012 Assembly polls, has seen the graph only going down. The young chief minister Akhilesh Yadav has tried to show his pro-development face during his first stint but the party has not been able to deliver the best in administering the state.
Here lies the biggest difference between him and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and hence, the biggest difference between UP and Bihar at the moment.
Why will Mayawati ally with SP now?
Akhilesh might also harbour a wish to get together with the BSP to replicate the Bihar model in UP, but Mayawati perhaps hasn't yet forgotten nor forgiven that infamous guest house attack in 1995.
Moreover, it would be foolish on her part now to join hands with a SP, which is bearing a burden of anti-incumbency on its back. With the Congress almost pushed to the margins and the BJP wondering about its next move, even a ‘go alone' strategy by Mayawati will see her gain enough in the next polls.
But Mayawati's issue-based talks will keep BJP interested
However, the BSP supremo's issue-based opinions will keep the BJP interested. The latter, after its humiliation in Bihar, will look to some stable force in UP to get its caste arithmetic right and in the absence of leaders like Kalyan Singh or Govindacharya, who other than Mayawati can help it in this mission?
SP's blunder in Bihar will encourage BJP in UP
The BJP will also believe that the blunder committed by the SP by walking out of the Grand Alliance in the Bihar polls, may be just to please its chief Mulayam Singh's ego, can go in its favour in the next Assembly polls in UP.
The SP could have prepared a stronger ground in UP by sticking to the Nitish-Lalu-Congress alliance as that would have given the BSP and BJP a scare during the UP polls. But by ruining the equation and widening a gap with the winners in Bihar, Mulayam Singh has isolated himself, both in terms of numbers and trust.
This is a big advantage for both the BJP and BSP and the saffron camp now can eye a chance to turn the RSS chief's opinion of reviewing the reservation policy into a tune in sync with Mayawati's push for quotas.
It can certainly make Arun Jaitley, who felt the arithmetic trumped the BJP's chemistry in Bihar, a happier man before the battle of UP.
Mayawati, amid her regular attack against the communal forces, has also been seen taking stands of blaming the SP government for the Dadri lynching and backing the GST Bill.
These are undoubtedly aimed at propelling her own ambition of wresting the Takht of Lucknow, but the BJP can also hope of inching closer to the BSP chief to ensure that the Bihar results are not repeated in UP.
The only concern could be the Muslim votes but can't UP have a J&K model?
The only hindrance on the way of a BSP-BJP closeness, however, will be the Muslim vote bank. With a decline in the credibility of Mulayam Singh's SP, the Muslims have started preferring parties like the BSP and Congress and that might stop Mayawati at a distance from the Modi camp.
But having said that, we have seen in the past a popular leader like Nitish Kumar sharing the governance with the BJP in Bihar and the Peoples Democratic Party running the show with the BJP in Jammu and Kashmir despite issues.
Politics, after all, is the art of the possible.