January 22, 2013

AN ALLY IN NEED IS AN ALLY INDEED


THE RACE FOR 2014 IS ON

Courtesy: Top News
As the Indian National Congress (INC) think tank went into a hurdle for its two day Chintan Shivir in Jaipur, several of its top leaders have come out in the open about the need for new allies if the 'Grand Old Party of India' wants to come back to power for a third straight term. While the wily Finance Minister Chidambaram has said that it is very difficult for any party to gain an absolute majority on its own, the outspoken Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh hit the nail on its head when he told media persons that the INC may need the help of newer partners to form the next government. With many more leaders including Vayalar Ravi and P C Chako echoing Ramesh's line, one should not be surprised if the Congress sends out overtures to other 'like-minded' parties in the near future like the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), presently a constituent of the Opposition NDA or the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), its main adversary in the state of Odisha. As the Congress brain stormed the pros and cons of fighting polls in coalition with other regional outfits, Lalu Prasad Yadav, the original 'joker' of Indian politics, the tag which I believe, he has lost to Congress General Secretary Digvijaya Singh in the last few years, has sounded the electoral bugle and declared the next Lok Sabha polls to be a straight contest between the 'Secular' Congress-led UPA and the 'Communal' BJP-led NDA.

Remember Shri Lalu Prasad Yadav - the former CM of Bihar and the chief of the RJD who had famously declared that one day he would rule the nasion (nation) and serve the pipool (people) on NDTV's Follow the Leader show way back in 2004 when he was a force to reckon with. Speaking to the press in Patna, the former Railway Minister has ruled out the Third Front of being a serious contender for the 2014 General Elections by saying that it will be a two-way contest between the 'Secular' compartment and the 'Communal' compartment. After his party's shameful performance in the 2009, during which he formed the Fourth Front after seat sharing talks with the Congress failed and the near complete rout in the last Bihar assembly polls, the cunning Lalu has voluntarily decided to be a part of the UPA's campaign in its quest for a hat trick of wins and in the process, revive his own political career, which has taken a downward plunge in the last decade. The OBC leader's words reminds me of former US President George Bush's 'You are either with us, or against us' speech after the horrific 9/11 attacks where he gave a clarion call to the leaders around the world to unite, behind America of course, to weed out terror from the face of the Earth. By trying to rake up the 'pseudo secular versus pro-Hindutva' debate, Yadav is acting as a dalal for the ruling party, hopeful that the work done now will reap in benefits in the form of plum ministerial posts in the third installation of UPA.

The precarious situation that the Congress finds itself in, may explain the sudden spurge in the scouting for newer friends. Anti-incumbency apart, the unending lists of scams, high inflation, policy paralysis and more importantly, the lack of a proper vision to take the country forward will make it extremely difficult for the party to even come close to the 200 mark. In fact, after Mamata, who was having an on-off relationship with the government dumped it some time ago, the Manmohan regime is surviving on the outside support of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP). While the government is struggling, its allies in the UPA are doing even worse. The infamous 2G scam and war of succession in the DMK will negatively impact its tally; there is nothing to indicate that NCP may do outstandingly well; other outfits like the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) or the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference (NC) will not cross the two digit mark. Besides, Jaganmohan Reddy's revolt and the indecisiveness over the Telangana issue will trim its prospects in a state that has sent the maximum number of MPs in both versions of the UPA. Aware of the multiple problems that plague it today, Congressmen are trying hard to woo other regional parties into its fold. The Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) whom political pundits predict to sweep Parliamentary seats on their home turf are high on its list of prospective pals with which it can enter into electoral agreements. Special economic soaps for Bihar and Odisha in the 2013 Union budgets may be one of the many concessions that Congress may offer in return of support.

Sadly for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), it is still to put its house in order to pose any threat to the ruling combine. The battle for succession amongst the various so called 'eligible' candidates that began with the shock defeat of the Vajpayee government in 2004 has only compounded and may even end up imploding the party, like its predecessor the Jan Sangh. During much of 2011 and 2012, when it was engulfed in internal chaos, the civil society led by Anna Hazare and later the Aam Admi Party of Arvind Kejriwal ended up acting as a responsible Opposition, criticizing the government on its failures. As the party was gaining some sort of momentum by cornering the UPA on the various corruption scams that have been unearthed in the past two years, the allegations of diverting illegal wealth into the shell companies of the Purti group against its president Nitin Gadkari have proved to be a major embarrassment, putting it on the back foot. The spectacular victory of Narendra Modi has landed the saffron outfit in a dilemma. After silencing his detractors, both inside the Sangh Parivar and outside, with a huge win, he is today, perhaps the strongest contender to lead the party in 2014. However, projecting Modi as the PM candidate may not go well with the allies in the NDA, especially the JD-U, which on multiple occasions has snubbed the CM of Gujarat. If the BJP plans to enter the fray under his leadership, it will, for sure have to give up even the wildest dreams of getting any support from parties like JD-U, BJD, TMC, SP, BSP and so on, which have a substantial Muslim vote base. Moreover, neither does it have any organizational presence nor does it have any bankable partners in the crucial states of Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu which send 140 odd members to the Lower House.

With the BJP in complete disarray, regional satraps are keen to grab the the anti-INC votes into their kitty. Realizing that every seat will increase their importance on the political stage during the great tamasha that we call government formation, they are going all out to impress the electorate. The Samajwadi Party (SP) is on a roll after its thumping victory in the last Vidhan Sabha polls and is expected to do well in 2014, in spite of young Akhilesh Yadav's 'mis-governance'. Though the Bhaujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) is down after the 2012 debacle, it is certainly not out and still has the potential to fight the SP tooth and nail. With the national parties lacking any sort of organization in Uttar Pradesh, M&M - Mulayam and Mayawati are almost certain to get anywhere between 45 to 60 seats, making them crucial for the formation of a stable government. In neighbouring Bihar, Nitesh Kumar's performance and mass appeal and a non-existing opposition is certain to help his party retain its tally. Also, the war of words between the leaders of the BJP and the JD-U, firstly over the support for Pranab in the Presidential polls and then regarding the candidature of Narendra Modi as the next PM means that all is not well in the NDA and Nitesh may be open to the idea of switching sides in case a special package is allocated to his state in the Union budget. Like in Bihar, Patnaik's excellent performance in Odisha is most likely to convert into votes for the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), a party which one can bet to bag around 15 seats, making it a prized possession for both fronts. Jayalalitha's AIADMK is on a upsurge and the differences between Alagiri and Stalin will go in its favour. Naidu's Telugu Desam, K Chandrashekar Rao's TRS and the newly launched YSR Congress may do well in Andhra whereas Mamata is expected to storm Bengal.

Thus, the stage is set and the race to run the 2014 Lok Sabha has begun. While it is true that the two major national parties might not be in the best of positions, the utopian idea of a non-Congress, non-BJP government - the Third front, the pinnacle of our multi-party democracy, may not become a reality any where in the near future. And to be frank, I believe it is good for the nation, as such a loose coalition of parties headed by selfish leaders, each trying to work only for his region, will ultimately be detrimental to national interests. Thus, in the coming months, both the major alliances will go the extra mile in wooing new partners, offering huge concessions in the process. On the other hand, the smaller parties who find themselves in a win-win situation would like to make the most of it, bargaining hard for a better deal. The coming year is a crucial one with as many as 10 states, mainly in the Hindi heartland and the North-east going to the polls. Major tectonic shifts are expected on the political stage which are definitely expected to have an impact on 2014. As the big elections come closer, expect unholy partnerships to be forged just for political benefit or existing ones broken for greener grass on the other side. No party is an untouchable anymore, irrespective of its ideology, especially if it can get the numbers. After all, as our netas say, there are no permanent friends or foes in politics.



For more on the 2014 General Elections
(1) The Fall of the Triumvirate (Link)
(2) The Double Edged Sword (Link)
(3) Reading Between the Lines (Link)



IMAGES

(1) Courtesy: Top News 
Source: TopNews - Congress and BJP vying for JMM's support (Link)