January 25, 2014

THE RACE FOR ALLIES


THE FIVE ALLIANCES WHICH COULD DECIDE WHO WINS 2014


The last time that the people voted for a single party government was way back in 1984 when the Indian National Congress won an unprecedented 414 seats due to the sympathy wave owing to the assassination of the PM Indira Gandhi. In fact, in every Lok Sabha elections since 1989, no party has been able to cross the half way mark on its own. The coalition era, characterized by the decline of the Congress, the inability of the BJP to penetrate into the southern and eastern parts of the country and the rise of regional aspirations is here to stay. There is nothing to indicate that the 2014 polls will be any way different. As such, the Congress and the BJP are going all out to woo new allies in a bid to strengthen their position. The elevation of Modi may have hurt the saffron outfit's chances of winning over friends but the BJP has managed to get back estranged leaders like Kalyan Singh and B S Yeddyurappa back into the party fold. At the same time, other regional player like the TDP and the YSR Congress in Andhra as well as the MDMK and the PMK in Tamil Nadu have been sending out feelers to the primary opposition. If there is one thing that the Congress is doing better than the BJP, at least for the time being is finding newer coalition partners. The grand old party is said to be in talks with the DMK in Tamil Nadu, the TRS in Andhra, the JD(U), the RJD and the LJP in Bihar, the AIUDF in Assam and the big daddy of them all, the BSP in Uttar Pradesh. Here is a look at five alliances which in my opinion could prove to be decisive in the upcoming General polls in my opinion.

(5) BJP's rainbow alliance in Tamil Nadu: When the BJP decided to declare the Gujarat CM as their PM nominee (Link) there was a feeling that the party will end up alienating itself in the big elections. However, the
PMK's Ramdoss and MDMK's Vaiko
party itself decided to take the risk as it hoped that the image of Modi as a strong, non corrupt leader will help it win the votes of the masses, besides galvanizing the party cadre. The gamble seems to have worked and the response that the BJP leader got at the Trichy rally in the state made it a sought after ally amongst the smaller Dravidian parties. At the same time, the break up of the Congress-DMK alliance has made the matters worse for both of them. Many had speculated that the AIADMK under Jaya would be a natural ally of the BJP considering her strong personal equations with Modi. However, Amma ruled out all talks of pre-poll alliance with any party, aware that a tally of over 30 seats would make her indispensable for the formation of a stable regime at the centre. Although the AIADMK has decided to go solo, MDMK's Vaiko has joined hands with the BJP. His outfit has pockets of influence in western and southern parts of Tamil Nadu. At the same time, PMK's Ramadoss which has support base amongst the Vaniyyar community is also keen to forge a partnership with the saffron party. The BJP is also trying to rope in Vijaykanth's DMDK in their front (Link). The problem here is that Ramadoss and Vijaykanth who both have political interests in northern parts of the state may not get along well. I know many may think that the BJP front may not get too many seats. Actually it would be great even if it manages to win about 3-5 seats. However, the thing to note here is that, considering that the BJP has negligible presence here, winning every single seat would be like a bonus.


(4) The Congress-JMM tie up in Jharkhand: One of the earliest pre poll alliance before the Lok Sabha polls came in July 2013 when the INC joined hands with Shibu Soren's JMM to end the impasse in Ranchi which
Hemant and Shibu Soren
was placed under the President's Rule. Under this agreement, Hemant Soren was sworn in as the ninth Chief Minister of the tribal state with support from the Congress, RJD and some independents. At the same time, a deal for fighting the big polls was stuck under which the INC will fight 10 seats whereas the JMM would field candidates from four places. While the state may send just fourteen MPs to the Parliament, the coalition may have a large impact on the results. To realize the importance of this tie-up, one has to understand that the political sphere in the state is highly fragmented and even a small swing of votes can lead to dramatic shifts. A look at the 2010 legislative assembly will help us in this regards. In this elections, both the BJP and the JMM won the highest number of seats, which was 18. The Congress and Babulal Marandi's JVM(P) won 13 and 11 seats respectively. Having joined hands, the INC-JMM tie-up will help consolidation of their votes. The last time the two came together in 2004 they won thirteen seats. In fact, the lone BJP MP from here was Marandi who has long left the party. Jharkhand is one state in central India where the BJP has to do more considering that its proposal for an alliance with the JVM(P) has been turned down by Marandi. The agreement is a win-win situation for both the INC and the Sorens; for the ailing Shibu, it is an opportunity to pass on the baton to his son. Having got the lion's share of seats, the Congress has reduced much of its dependence over the JMM which history shows, is not a reliable ally.


(3) The UPA in Bihar: Now moving from Jharkhand to neighboring Bihar, the divorce between the BJP and the JD(U) has opened a plethora of possibilities. The Namo wave is growing stronger, the way the
RJD's Lalu and LJP's Paswan
Gujarat CM continued with his Patna rally in spite of the bomb blast has further added to his popularity. As such, it is but natural for the Congress to hunt for new allies in the state. With the UPA facing anti-incumbency and the party having a weak organization here in Patna, it seems to be its only chance. Ram Vilas Paswan of the LJP who drew a blank in the last Parliamentary polls has already expressed his desire to fight the polls in alliance with the INC. Now the big question is whether the third partner here will be Nitish's JD(U) or Lalu Yadav's RJD. Some time back, Rahul Gandhi had asked Nitish to dump the BJP and join the UPA for protecting the 'secular' traditions of the country. Considering Kumar's clean image and his development work, allying with him might be a good option. At the same time, the INC is aware that the CM's plummeting ratings and the anti-incumbency factor may force it to rethink. On the other hand, RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav who has come out of a small stint in jail in the multi-crore Fodder scam (Link) is aiming to use the upcoming polls as an opportunity to resurrect his political fortunes. The issue of allying with Lalu has its own set of problems. The corruption charges against the former CM may hurt the party's prospects here. The last time the three parties i.e. the INC, the RJD and the LJP came together in 2004, they swept the polls, winning 29 out of the 40 seats. However, at this juncture, like the BJP alliance in Tamil Nadu, every seat that the UPA wins here will make it more difficult for Modi to become the PM.


(2) The Ruling Alliances have the edge in Punjab and Kerala: Now I am sticking my neck out and saying that the ruling coalitions in the states of Punjab and Kerala may sweep the polls in their respective states. The Akali-BJP
The Badals
combine did the impossible in 2012 when it romped to power, the first time that an incumbent government had been voted back to power in decades in the northern state. In the last two years, the Badals have done nothing grossly wrong so as to indicate that they is any large scale dissatisfaction with them. The failure of the Manpreet Badal led PPP to make an impact and the high inflation rates will benefit the SAD. For the BJP, it has managed to placate Amritsar MP Navjot Singh Sidhu who was reportedly unhappy with the central leadership for being sidelined. In 2009, the INC grabbed 8 seats here, largely owing to the popularity of the PM Manmohan Singh. With Singh having announced his retirement, this elections may well see the ruling
The LDF
combine winning about 10 seats from here. On similar lines, the United Democratic Front (UDF) government in Kerala is expected to do exceeding well as per the CNN IBN-Lok Niti prediction. According to the survey, it may win anywhere between 12 to 18 seats, reducing the Left Front to single digits. Such a result may have a significant impact on the Third Front. The Communists have been the ones who have time and again called for a non-Congress, non-BJP government in Delhi. However, in 2014, they may find it extremely difficult to even win more than 20 seats. In Bengal, Mamata's TMC is believed to be sweeping the elections. At this time, the comrades only hope was to do well in their southern bastion. If they fail to win over 10 seats here, the Reds may have absolutely no significance whatsoever in the next Lok Sabha.


(1) The Maha Yuti in Maharashtra: The Congress along with its ally, Sharad Powar's NCP has been in power in Mumbai for three consecutive terms. Besides facing anti-incumbency both in the state as well as at
The Maha Yuti
the Centre, the allegations of corruption in the Adarsh society scam has tainted the image of the local regime. In fact, in the last five years, the Congress has changed three Chief Ministers here. At the same time, the NCP is having troubles of its own (Link). It is being reported that the traditional NCP vote bank, the Marathas of Western Maharashtra are exploring other options. At the same time, the Irrigation scam in which allegations were made against Ajith Powar has further dented its image. While the ruling combine is struggling, the Opposition in the state is united and stronger than ever before. Following the death of its supremo Balasaheb, the Shiv Sena under Uddhav is on the rise. The factionalism within the BJP which had split into two camps here, one led by Gopinath Munde and the other by Nitin Gadkari following the death of Pramod Mahajan is now a thing of the past. The Athavale led Republican Party of India will help the front gather Dalit votes. Now Raju Shetty led Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatan has also joined hands with them. The only consolation for the INC-NCP regime is that Raj Thackeray led MNS may led to the split in the traditional Marathi votes, especially in Mumbai. However, it is believed that the BJP is planning to mend this loophole. While bringing the two Senas together may not be possible, the saffron outfit may enter a strategic alliance with Raj under which they will nominate weak leaders in each other's bastion. The Maha Yuti as it is called may even win over 30 seats of the 48 in Maharashtra.



IMAGES 

(1) PMK's Ramdoss and MDMK's Vaiko
Original: The Hindu - PMK, MDMK not to contest bypoll (Link)

(2) Hemant and Shibu Soren
Original: Jharkhand State News - Hemant with his father Shibu Soren to fly to Delhi, efforts to form government on (Link)

(3) RJD's Lalu and LJP's Paswan
Original: Indian Express - Lalu-Paswan deal not acceptable, says Congress (Link)

(4) The Badals
Original: The Tribune - SAD takes recourse to Panthic agenda (Link)

(5) The UDF
Original: The UDF (Link)

(6) The Maha Yuti
Original: Maha Yuti seals seat-sharing pact (Link)