Congress kept the hopes of a ‘maha gathbandhan’ against the BJP in Uttar Pradesh alive by not ruling out the inclusion of Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) in the tie-up for the key Assembly polls in the state. Contours of the alliance are being worked out as Congress has nothing to lose but to gain few seats, where once it dominated the government formation in New Delhi. The change of permutation and combinations are the compulsion of coalition politics and today the fortunes are also on tenterhooks for the parties. Samajwadi Party had ruled out any alliance with the RLD, asserting party would have a tie-up with Congress only. Samajwadi Party will contest from over 300 seats (out of 403) and the Congress will be there for the rest of them. This is the equation the survival combine is working out. The separation from RLD was as it wanted more seats than what the SP was ready to part with. Brahmins form almost 10 per cent of UP’s population. Ever since Other Backward Classes (OBC)-Dalit politics evolved in the state, with the rise of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) respectively, Brahmins have relied on tactically aligning with one or the other of these parties. The landed community of Brahmins is often seen bargaining for its interests with one of these parties just ahead of elections. The leader of the BSP, Mayawati’s victory in 2007 was largely attributed to her implausible alliance with Brahmins – what many referred to as ‘social engineering’. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been the natural ally of the Brahmins on non-electoral fronts. In the 2014 elections, the Brahmins declared their unequivocal support for Narendra Modi. However, in the run-up to the UP Assembly polls, the BJP, too, has focused on working out an alternative backward class electorate comprising non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav Dalits, apart from a few dominant caste groups like Thakurs. This means that Brahmins may have to look out for a tactical alliance yet again. It is against this context that the Congress’s decision to have a Brahmin Chief Ministerial candidate stands out. If this comes to pass, a Brahmin will be in the electoral race for the top post for the first time after 1988, when N.D. Tiwari was the Chief Minister.