December 07, 2014

FRIENDS..... AGAIN

THE IMPACT OF THE REGROUPING OF THE 'SOCIALISTS' ON INDIAN POLITY

Earlier this week, the various fragments of the erstwhile Janata Dal who were literally obliterated in the May Lok Sabha polls decided to join hands in a bid to save their political careers and form a united front against the so-called communal forces led by Modi and a resurgent BJP while being at an arm's length from the Congress which is still battling anti-incumbency in spite of being out of power for over six months. After having played a key role in the formation of successive governments at the Centre for over two decades, these regional satraps found themselves rendered 'political insignificant' after the saffron outfit crossed the halfway mark on its own earlier this year. The Samajwadi Party (SP) which won a decisive mandate in 2012 polls in Uttar Pradesh could not win a single seat outside its family fiefdom as Amit Shah scripted a fairy tale victory for his party in the northern state. The then Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, the self-proclaimed 'upholder' of India's secular ideals was given a mega jolt even as Lalu's much hyped 'comeback' was derailed by Sushil Kumar Modi and his new allies - LJP's Paswan and RSLP's Kushwaha. The misery of other 'former' strongmen namely Deve Gowda and Om Prakash Chautala only compounded further. Now that these 'wise men' of Indian politics have left behind their past differences and agreed to work together, let us for moment ponder as to what implication such a union will have on the politics of the country in the near future.

No prices for guessing as to who benefits the most out of this move. The results of the Bihar by-polls have proved that the only way to effectively counter the Modi-Shah bandwagon is to cobble up coalitions keeping aside bitter rivalries and forgetting ideologies (read 'unholy' alliances). With the state elections scheduled next year, the likes of Nitish, Lalu and Sharad Yadav have to ensure that the anti-BJP vote does not split and the best way to bring together the Maha Dalits, the Yadavs and the Muslims is to revive the Janata Parivaar.

With many expecting Modi to be at the helm of affairs for a long innings, it just makes sense for the regional bigwigs to stick together or risk being out of 'business'. At the same time, many are doubting whether the new outfit could sustain itself; after all, each of these men has a big ego. Moreover, at various times in the past, they have fought and hurled the choicest abuses on each other. Remember those days in the mid 90s when Lalu thwarted Mulayum's dreams of becoming the PM. Perhaps, the biggest hurdle for them will be make sure that they continue to remain united. For the time being, the SP chief is all set to be the leader of the new party; not only does his party have the maximum number of MPs in the Parliament, it also continues to remain in power in UP.

For the first time in many, many years, the prospects of a non-Congress, non-BJP front seem to be more likely than ever. This latest endeavor is different from the Third Front in the sense that all these satraps will now (hopefully) fight under a unified leadership and a common symbol. The BJP certainly has reasons to worry as it makes its task in Bihar all the more difficult. And then, there is the fear of consolidation of the secular votes in the upcoming elections. The saffron outfit has to reconsider its decision of further alienating its allies like the Akalis and the Shiv Sena. The BJP cannot afford to act 'haughty' and 'mistreat' its partners in the NDA, an accusation that many have levied against it in the recent past.

At least the BJP is in power and at present has the arsenal to see off this threat. Spare a thought for the Congress. As if the fact that it is at a historic low and is being led by Rahul Gandhi is not enough, this new formation could relegate the INC to the third position. With the likes of Yadavs and Kumar on the same platform, there is a high probability that the Muslim voters will gravitate away from it, further alienating the grand old party. At a time when the party is desperate to find strong regional allies to take on the government, this new development will reduce its options. Meanwhile, the numbers also gives these leaders more bargaining power in dealing with the Congress.

Lastly, what does this development mean for other political parties in India. The Communists are grinning as they have always been advocating for a strong front consisting of regional players. On the other hand, the three big satraps viz Mamta, Jaya and Patnaik who have managed to beat the saffronists in their backyard are looking at this development very closely. The revival of the Janata Dal (JD) opens a new set of opportunities for them; they will now have three alternatives in the future and will be in a good position to play hard ball. Sharad Pawar who broke his alliance with the Congress just before the Maharashtra state polls too has welcomed this move. The JD will like to get him on board. Ditto with Ajit Singh who was washed out in the Union polls; though he may have his differences with the Chautalas, convincing him to join the front, considering his present political fortunes will be easy. Frankly, if the leaders do manage to win Bihar, I will not be surprised if some of the disgruntled sections within the NDA like the Akalis and Ram Vials Paswan or for that matter, Mayawati decides to do business with the new front. A host of parties including the PDP, the JMM, the TRS, the AIUDF and the AIMIM could be open to work with the JD while resisting a direct merger. In the south, the DMK and the YSRCP will be happy to extend support to the new outfit since they cannot afford to back either of the two national parties at this moment.